Research Question, Essay Example
With the current, prolonged economic downturn led by the housing sector, the construction sector has experienced a substantial downturn. Indeed, the downturn is not only limited to the residential building area, but all construction firms have suffered as local and federal governments have implemented austerity policies. In order to succeed, many construction firms have turned away from serving the private sector to bid for public construction projects. Although this represents a substantial industry transition, there have not been many research studies that have focused on how construction firms have survived the economic turmoil. . That is, a study has not been conducted, however, that looks at which firms were successful in obtaining new business and the fate of firms that continued to pursue private contracts in a time of economic privation. Thus, the research question to be explored in this proposal is: What are the characteristics and motives of government and private contractors during the economic recession from 2008-2011?
This study will use a number of qualitative methods in order to understand this question. Primarily, the study will use survey and interview methods at a number of different construction companies in order to understand why contracting companies are in the current position. The study will aim at interviewing 50 construction firms located throughout the country and of different sizes and business focus. The firms will be chosen randomly from two different lists: 1) The first 25 firms will be selected from a list of firms that provides construction services primarily (although not exclusively) to government clients; 2) The second 25 firms will be selected from a list that provides construction services primarily (but not exclusively) to private clients. A random method will be used to choose the firms giving all firms in the field a random number. A random number generator will then be created to choose numbers that correspond to the firms chosen.
Although the sample will be divided into two different categories of government contractors, the answers on the informational survey will be the same. In total, there will be four parts included for the interview/ survey to firms.
- Basic information regarding the firm and its history
- Basic information regarding the firm’s economic history including its clients
- Preference for private or public contracts
- The firm’s performance during the economic downturn
The qualitative survey will be used by a research assistant for face-to-face interviews with relevant managers in the company. In addition to asking the questions, the research assistant will also record the entire interview via tape recorder and then transcribe the entire interview. Once the transcript of the interview is finished, another research analyst (not the original research analyst who conducted the interview) will then enter the interview text, question-by question, into Envivo qualitative software for analysis. A report will then be printed out highlighting the main themes brought up in each individual interview, and the interviews in each category (private contractors versus government contractors). Once that is finished a full qualitative analysis will be performed by the investigators of the grant.
Although it is impossible to say with certainty how the interview data would relate to the research question without doing the actual work, this section provides mock results that could result from the qualitative methods used in this survey.
Overall, the results will be divided into two different parts: the predominantly private construction contractors and the predominantly government contractors. The predominantly private contractors saw the largest decline in their business; this result is not out of the realm of expectations as private contractors were more exposed to the construction downturn. The responses of some of the managers explained why this was the case: roughly 10 of the firms (33%) stated that in order to make up for lost business in the private sector, they decided to start bidding on government contractors. All of the 10 contractors had performed government contracts in the past, and boosted larger revenue (defined as greater than $500 million per year.). Of the remaining 15 firms, five firms stated they did not have the size to deal with government contractors; the other 10 firms stated they did not have the size nor the experience to participate in that market.
While there was substantial change in the corporate strategy among contractors seeking private business, there was less change in the traditionally government contractor category. Indeed, of the 25 firms selected in the sample, all 25 said they would continue to seek government business during the down turn in order to insulate against downturns in their smaller private businesses. A majority of government contractor representatives admitted, however, that the overall contracting environment became more competitive as private contractors entered the field.
Differences between quantitative and qualitative method for research question
The question of whether to use qualitative or quantitative methods to explore a research question is a critical one. For this particular research question, qualitative methods possess a number of advantages over quantitative methods.
First, while quantitative methods might provide evidence of a change in a contractor’s bidding behavior and overall construction patterns, it does not provide explanations for what might factor(s) might explain the change. In order to understand the advantages of the qualitative method in assessing this question, a hypothetical quantitative method study will need to be pondered. A quantitative study of this research question would likely consist of data for each different company (50 in all) that shows the projects they bid for, their successful and failed bids, and their overall change in business pre- and post-recession. Thus, one could perform a basic data analysis to understand how many projects each firm won, for which type of project, and the total awarded to the firm. A more sophisticated quantitative analysis might create a regression analysis for both categories of firms that creates a predictive equation for which type of firm has the advantage in bidding for certain projects. The quantitative analysis would also help one to understand the key factors in predicting what might happened in the future among construction firms. Overall, there would substantial data to understand and compare the two different groups of contractors.
While quantitative information would be useful in assessing the performance of different government contracting firms, it would not answer one of the main questions: why did those changes occur over time. That is, what changed in either the market of management’s thinking to precipitate the change in corporate strategy? That is, the statistics would changes in the firms bidding and construction behavior over time; however, it would not show what precipitated that change.
Qualitative methods, on the other hand, would give greater texture to why those changes took place. For example, the survey component of the study would allow the researcher to baseline the firms and understand the basic business characteristics and market position of each construction firm. Perhaps more importantly, the interview portion of the study would allow the researcher to understand what decisions and market factors played a key role in a bidders decision to either pursue a certain bidding strategy or not to. This would also be useful in trying to understand if the sample was representative in making generalizations about the larger sample of construction firms.
Overall, there is a tradeoff between employing qualitative and quantitative methods to answer this question. While quantitative would certainly give more data to understand market trends, it would also leave the researcher to come up with understanding why those changes occurred without having access to the individuals who actually made those decisions. While the qualitative methods are not amenable to robust data collection, they do tend to provide greater explanatory power in understanding the reasons for the examined phenomenon. Some might criticize qualitative methods due to the subjective nature of the data collection and the potential bias this introduces into the analysis. This is a legitimate concern. But quantitative data does not escape from similar scrutiny. That is, although quantitative data is perceived as more “objective” than qualitative data due to the presence of numbers; in fact, both methods allow for bias to creep into the analysis. The main difference is that qualitative research methods allow us to drill-down in this case to understand more than quantitative data can provide.
Creswell, R. (2008). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Sage Press.
Padgett, K. (2004). The qualitative research experience. Brooks Cole.
Patton, M.Q. (2004). Qualitative Research. Sage
Richards, L. (2004). Handling qualitative data: a guide. Sage Press.
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