Research Methodology and Structure

Proposed Research Project

The effects of social networks on e-commerce; with special reference to consumer buying behavior and demand patterns.”

The proposed research will address the impacts that social media networks have on e-commerce. In particular, the dissertation will be examining the influence that these social networks have on consumer buying behavior and demand patterns. In this section, the paper addresses the methodology that will be used in the dissertation. The ethical issues that are likely to be encountered while conducting this research have been outlined too. Further, the structure of the entire dissertation has been proposed with a focus on the varied sections that will be included. Based on the underlying discussion of any dissertation, it is always important that a researcher selects the best methodology that is suited for that particular study (Mason, 2002).


Research Philosophy

The interpretivism research paradigm has come out as the most appropriate philosophy to use for this research. Interpretivism bears a relation to both epistemology and ontology through the belief that reality is both relative and multiple. According to Cheung & Lee (2010), these multiple realities tend to depend on other systems in order to gain a meaning something that makes it difficult to interpret aspects in terms of fixed realities. This means that the usage of this philosophy enables a researcher to acquire knowledge that is socially constructed.

Interpretivism tends to avoid usage of rigid structural frameworks as it is the case with the positivist approach by adopting a more flexible and personal research structure. A personal and flexible structure makes it easier to capture meanings in human interaction and also helps in making sense of the aspect that is regarded as reality (Crossan, 2003). There is an assumption that the respondents and the researcher are mutually interactive and interdependent. Through this philosophy, the researcher is always open to new knowledge that is coming from the respondents. This helps in building on what the researcher already knew regarding the topic of study (Guion et al., 2001). Such a collaborative and emergent approach tends to be consistent with what interpretivists believe; which is, humans have the capacity to adapt and that people cannot attain prior knowledge of context and time bound realities (Ratchford et al., 2001).

Simply put, the objective of the interpretivism research paradigm is to interpret and understand the meanings that are embedded in human behavior rather than generalizing and predicting causes. Based on the current study, consumer behavior and social networks can be more complicated relative to the literature (Blythe, 2008). In addition, the primary aim of this study is to identify the role of online social networks in influencing consumer choice and decision. The identification of this influence, as well as the reasons for the relationship, is best achieved through a research philosophy that has a more flexible and personal research structure (Blackwell et al., 2001).


Data Collection Methods

Based on the nature of study involved, the research will employ the usage of qualitative data. More precisely, the research will use both primary and secondary data. Primary data will be collected through semi-structured interviews while secondary data will be collected through assessment of contemporary data sources (the internet). These methods of data collection are well in line with the interpretivism research paradigm.

For the semi-structured interviews, they will involve approximately 30 respondents. This will be individuals that are normally involved with online shopping and are users of various social networking sites.  The interviews will be purposed to examine the impacts of social media sites on e-commerce. In particular, their decisions on purchases as well as demand patterns will be explored in detail. There will be a draft of varied questions revolving around this issue that will help in getting a vivid understanding of the topic under research. The questions involved will be semi-structured in order to help the participants to express themselves in some areas (Zikmund, 2000). Semi-structured questions will also help in deriving definite responses for some questions for the purpose of comparison during data analysis. The research will ensure that the respondents that will be approached for the interviews are as varied as possible. This is based on the demographics of age, race, and gender among others (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).   The integration of different interviewees is important in reducing and avoiding the possibility of bias during data collection (Holden & Lynch, 2004).

The interviews will be conducted on a face to face basis. They will be conducted in a street-based manner whereby the participants will be approached randomly in shopping malls. These are places that are likely to have individuals involved with online shopping. The criteria for qualification will be that the respondent has been involved with online shopping (e-commerce) at some point, and they are avid users of social media networks. There will be the need to seek consent from the participants and duly inform them what the research is all about before the commencement of the interviews. Semi-structured interviews are well suited for this research because they allow for flexibility of restructuring questions and having spontaneous inquiries in order to source more information during the interviews (Bryman, 2006). This data collection method can also be administered through varied forms of communication hence flexible to different participants. The aspects of confidentiality and anonymity associated with interviews also ensure that participants are forthcoming and honest in their responses (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).

When it comes to contemporary data sources (the internet), it will be used for collecting secondary data. This is data from research that has been done previously regarding this issue. This will include information from books and journals that revolve around this topic. There will also be an examination of various websites that have provided information on various trends regarding e-commerce that is associated with social networks. This method of data collection will help in comparing aspects from different time periods in order to view the actual effect that can be attributed to social media platforms (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). In different online platforms, people tend to share their views and opinions regarding different issues. Such information regarding e-commerce will be helpful in the collection of viable data. When a researcher aims at investigating human behavior, the Internet is always a favorable place to go (Miles & Huberman, 2013).


 Data Analysis Techniques

Given that this is a qualitative research that seeks to use interviews and contemporary data sources (the Internet), content analysis has been identified as the most appropriate data analysis method. The fact that the interview will use approximately 30 respondents makes the method even more viable. The data involved will be in the form of interview transcripts and internet extracts. Content analysis is a technique that is used to make valid and replicable inferences through interpretation and coding of textual material (Neuman, 2002). This is done by systematically evaluating texts such as oral communication (interviews), graphics and documents among others. Content analysis is regarded as being favorable since it enables a researcher to examine behaviors, perceptions and societal trends (Sturges & Hanrahan, 2004). On most occasions, it enables the researcher to analyze perceptual and socio-cognitive constructs, and also gather large samples that might be deemed difficult to use in purely qualitative studies.

First, the collected data is coded and labeled in a bid to recognize all the differences and similarities. The use of a computer is highly significant in feeding the collected data and coming up with coded and analyzed results (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). However, this research will not employ a pre-coding system and therefore will rely on the method of identifying and labeling the collected data (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). Content analysis categorizes behavioral and verbal data for the purpose of summarization, classification, and tabulation. The content collected is then analyzed on two levels including the basic and latent level (Coffrey & Atkinson, 1996). In the basic level of analysis, descriptive aspects of the collected data are developed to include what is said in the interviews and relevant internet sources. However, this stage does not include the theories and comments explaining the why and how relating to the responses. In the second stage, the researchers employ a more interpretive analysis of the collected data (Miles & Huberman, 2013). In this regard, data from the respondents is analyzed in relation to its implications and inferences. The use of content analysis in this study is based on its involvement in classifying and coding data as well as the indexing and categorization of collected data (Sandelowski, 2000). The goal of this analysis is to highlight the significant findings, features or messages arising from the collected data.

Ethical Issues

Just like other forms of research, qualitative research is likely to encounter varied ethical issues. Overcoming ethical issues is always important in order to ensure that the results that have been derived are valid (Sachs & Cohen, 1997). Among the potential ethical issues in this research is informed consent. The aspect of consent will arise while interviewing the relevant respondents. There will be the need to inform the participants that they are part of a research process. Disclosing the details as to what the research will be all about, and what it is meant for will be important too. There are times when some researchers feel like misleading the participants in order to compel them into getting involved with the process since some reasons seem quite influential compared to others (Creswell & Clark, 2007). This will not be the case for this research since it will ensure that participants agree to become part of it upon receiving the relevant disclosures.

The aspect of confidentiality is also likely to arise. Any relevant information that might result in the identification of the participants will not be disclosed. When the participants are aware of the confidentiality prospects, they are more likely to be honest and provide more information that will help in making inferences for the research (Ritchie et al., 2013).

Another ethical issue that is likely to arise during the research is that of data bias. This is where a researcher tends to prefer a particular set of data as opposed to the others while doing the analysis. This aspect is mostly propagated by the prior knowledge that a researcher has about the topic at hand before the execution of the research (Patton, 2011). In order to overcome this ethical issue, the research purports to use a significant number of participants for the interview and a varied set of internet sources. Every data collected from these sources will be duly analyzed.



Chapter Content
  Table of Contents
  List of Tables and Charts
Chapter 1: Introduction
  Research Background
  Research Purpose
  Research Questions, Objectives and Aims
Chapter 2: Literature Review
  Theory Review
Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
  Research Philosophy
  Data Collection Methods
  Research Design
  Data Analysis Techniques
  Ethical Issues
Chapter 4: Research Findings
Chapter 5: Analysis
Chapter 6: Discussion, Implications and Conclusion
Chapter 7: Timetable & Resources



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