Dissertation Chapter 3 Sample Research methodology

The influence of relationship quality on supply chain performance in Chinese vehicle industry

3.1 Introduction

In light of the literature review as well as research aim and objectives, this chapter is devoted to explore the methods used in data collection in this study. This is precisely in terms of research philosophy, research approach, research strategy, research data type, research instruments, research design, sampling, data collection, and data analysis. Besides, this chapter elucidate the research ethics considered that were considered in this study. This chapter is in line with the onion research model proposed by Saunders et al. (2009), which is illustrated in the figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Onion research model

Source: Saunders et al. (2009)

3.2 Research philosophy

Creswell (2014) has described research philosophy as the belief regarding the manner in which data about given a research phenomena should be collected, analysed, as well as used.  Taking this into consideration, despite the fact there are various research philosophy that can be used by researchers, Kirsch and Sullivan (2012) have emphasised that interpretivism and positivism philosophy are the most used by modern day researchers. In regard to this, the philosophy of interpretivism is normally associated with subjective interpretation of phenomena. This means that in this philosophy, opinions as well as feelings of individual are typically taken into consideration. Interpretivism philosophy, as elucidated by Saunders et al. (2009) is usually associated with qualitative data. On the other hand, when it comes to the philosophy of positivism, it involves scientific manipulation of data for the primary aim of understanding a specific phenomenon. Taking this into consideration, positivism philosophy is usually associated with quantitative data. When it comes to this study, interpretivism philosophy was chosen. This is because the study involved collection of qualitative data from the participants in attempt to understand the influence of relationship quality on supply chain performance in Chinese vehicle industry.

3.3 Research approach

Goddard and Melville (2011) explain that there are two research approaches used in a given research. These are deductive approach and inductive approach. According to Brink et al. (2007), deductive approach usually involves formulation of hypothesis before testing it with collected data. Besides, Khan (2011) has explained that deductive approach is normally associated with quantitative data. On the other hand, inductive approach does not need formulation of hypothesis. On this, Kuada (2012) has asserted that it entails gaining a general theory by summarising a particular phenomenon. Taking this study into consideration, there was no formulation of hypothesis. Therefore, inductive approach was found to be the most suitable in this research. Besides, Saunders et al. (2009) have suggested that inductive approach works well with interpretivism philosophy.

3.4 Research strategy

According to Kirsch and Sullivan (2012), researchers usually have a various strategies, which they can use in conducting their studies. In regards to this, despite the fact that there are many research strategies, Khan (2011) has elucidated that the most used ones are experiments, surveys, case studies, as well as action study. Taking this study into consideration, case study was found to be the most appropriate strategy, where Higer Company was the selected case. According to Creswell (2014), case study usually entails conducting a study through empirical investigation of specific phenomena.  Unlike other research strategies, Goddard and Melville (2011) have explicated that the use of case study typically encompasses various sources of evidence, which play a critical role in coming up with a compressive conclusion regarding a certain phenomena.  Therefore, through the use of case study, the researcher in this study was in a position of obtaining background information of the research, which helped in challenging a wide range of theoretical assumptions.

3.5 Research data type

As asserted by Saunders et al. (2009), both quantitative as well as qualitative data can be used in any given research. According to Kuada (2012), quantitative data typically entails data which can be expressed in numbers such as speed, distance, and size. Qualitative data on the other hand has been described by Kirsch and Sullivan (2012) as data that cannot be expressed in numerical form. Ideally, qualitative data is usually expressed as opinions and feelings. In light of this stud, qualitative data was used. According to Khan (2011), qualitative data usually help the researcher in evaluating the feelings as well as opinions of the participants, which helps in giving deeper insights regarding the study phenomena. Therefore, through the use of qualitative data, the researcher was able to have a deeper understanding of the influence of relationship quality on supply chain performance in Chinese vehicle industry.

3.5 Research instrument

According to Goddard and Melville (2011), research instruments usually take into account the tools that are used by the researcher in data collection. Taking this into consideration, although Brink et al. (2007) have highlighted that that there are various research instruments available, questionnaires and interviews are the most commonly used by modern researchers. In this study, interviews were the selected research instruments. This was largely fuelled by the need to collect qualitative data from the respondents.  According to Bryman and Bell (2007), interviews are usually useful in giving deeper insights owing to the fact that the researcher is able to evaluate the opinions and feelings of the researchers. Nonetheless, unlike other methods such as questionnaires, interviews cannot be administered to many participants within a short duration of time. Besides, data collected through interviews, unlike other questionnaires is typically hard to analyse. In this study, semi-structured interviews, which combine predetermine set of questions with the opportunity for the respondent to provide further exploration of the theme of the study. Therefore through this, the researcher in this study was able to have a profound understanding of influence of relationship quality on supply chain performance in Chinese vehicle industry.

3.6 Research design

Research objective Theoretical underpinning Interview questions
To analyse the impact communication on Higer’s supply chain performance;  

Ross (2013)

To investigate the impact of trust on Higer’s supply chain performance; Nyaga and Whipple (2011) 4-6
To evaluate the effect of cooperation on Higer’s supply chain performance


Ellram and Cooper (2014) 7-9
To assess the impact of interdependence on Higer’s supply chain performance; Shonghari et al. (2013) 10-12


3.7 Sampling

Bryman and Bell (2007) explicate that sampling is the process of choosing participants in a give study. According to Kuada (2012), it is typically not possible to conduct a study the entire population. Therefore, it is always crucial to select participants based on research instrument to be used, available time, as well as financial aspects among other considerations. When it comes to this study, convenient sampling was used. According to Brink et al. (2007), this method of sampling involves selecting participants based on their convenience. Besides, this method involves choosing participants on the basis of their availability together with their willingness to participate. Therefore, in this study, the researcher considered selecting five middle level managers from Higer Company.

3.8 Data collection

As aforementioned, five middle level managers of Higer Company were chosen to be interviewed in this study. The researcher believed that the middle level managers are well informed about the topic of study are likely be available for the interviews as compared to the top level counterparts who have relatively more commitments. In order to gain access to the interviewees, the researcher firstly considered seeking for consent from the company through the human resource department which then introduced him to the middle level managers at the company. The researcher then identified 5 middle level managers for the study based on their availability and set dates for the interview. This was after explaining to all the managers the aim and objective of the study. Each of the five managers was interviewed separately in their respective offices. Each interview took approximately 15 minutes. Interview responses were recorded in a notebook for later analysis.

3.9 Data analysis

After all the interview records were gathered, the next step was to analyse the data. Taking this into consideration, the data collected analysed by use of content analysis technique where the information was firstly grouped based on their similarities and differences and then comparison done with the findings of extant literatures. Through this, the researcher was in a position of understanding influence of relationship quality on supply chain performance in Chinese vehicle industry in the case of Higer Company.

3.10 Research ethics

According to Kuada (2012), it is crucial for a researcher to consider research ethics throughout the study. This is because it helps in ensuring that the data collected is valid and reliable to a considerable extent.  Taking this into consideration, the researcher in this study considered observing research ethics. Precisely, the researcher ensured anonymity of the participants through not exposing individual responses to any third part. Secondly, the researcher considered seeking for the participant’s consents before engaging them in the study. Lastly the researcher used the information provided by them only for the purposes of the research only, and was not diverted in other uses.

3.11 Chapter summary

In summary, this chapter has established that the interpretivism philosophy and inductive approach were the most suitable in this study. This is because the data used in the study was quantitative in nature.  As regards to research strategy, case study was used where Higer Company was chosen. When it came to the research instrument, semi-structured interviews were used, where five middle level managers of Higer Company were interviewed. Data collected was analysed through content analysis, where responses were grouped together and patterns identified. The ethical considerations include: ensuring anonymity of the participants, seeking for the participant’s consents before engaging them in the study as well as using the information provided by them only for the purposes of the research.




Brink, H., Van, . W. C., & Van, R. G. (2007) Fundamentals of research methodology for health care professionals. Kenwyn: Juta.

Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2007) Business Research Methods (2nd Ed.).  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed., p. 304). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Goddard, W., & Melville, S. (2011) Research methodology: An introduction. Lansdowne: Juta.

Khan, J. A. (2011) Research methodology. New Delhi: APH Publishing Corporation.

Kirsch, G., & Sullivan, P. A. (2012) Methods and methodology in composition research. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Kuada, J. E. (2012) Research methodology: A project guide for university students. Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur.

Saunders, M, Lewis, P, & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research methods for business students, 5th edition., UK: Harlow: Pearson education.




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