The method section of the thesis consists of how the core research activities were carried out. In the following section we elaborated in detail about the research approach. Research approach consisted of our view in doing the research study. In the next section, we give details of research design i.e. how the overall research was carried out. It is like a roadmap of our research study. In the methods sections, we have stated the criteria for selecting a particular case, the techniques used for data collection process i.e. in this case the interview guide and its design, question sets development and trustworthiness of designed research. The ending part of this section has ethical considerations in our research study and also the research validity considerations.
Interpretive methods of research assume the view that the real world information or understanding is a social creation by the individual persons. The data in this process is the perceptions of the human actors (Walsham, 1995). The interpretivist qualitative approach helps researcher to make sense of what the participant constructs the sense of the real world (Merriam, 2002). In our research study, interpretivist approach was the apt one because we intended to study the perceptions of the employees of the company. The perceptions were then interpreted to the theoretical data collected prior to the interviews. There was a choice to be made between positivist and interpretivist approaches. But in positivist approach nature of reality is objective whereas in interpretivist the nature of reality is socially constructed (Hudson & Ozanne, 1988). We intended to follow the social constructionist approach. The interview questions were aimed at extracting the opinions or insights of the employees about the components to sustain the power relations. Generalization of study by interpretivist approach was a difficult aspect. In the interpretivist approach, once the research question is formulated, the researchers decide about who will be the center of exploration (Williams, 2000). In our research study, company employees of the selected firms were the source of information. Their opinions were interpreted to understand the perceptions of the interviewees.
We designed an exploratory qualitative study. Exploratory study can be considered as a perspective study which essentially includes what is the learning (Stebbins, 2001). In our research study, we wanted to learn about how the companies are sustaining the power relations in supply chain. The data was a qualitative data in nature. Our thesis was solely based on perceptions of the interviewees for which no company’s financial data was required for analysis. Qualitative research method can be investigation of the subject of curiosity through case studies (Harwell, 2011). The approach of qualitative research is inductive i.e. theories are constructed from the information provided by the participant (Harwell, 2011). Qualitative interviews offered in-depth and thorough information from the interviewees to reveal their perceptions, understandings about a topic and incidents they came across in their professional life (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe, & Jackson, 2015). So by using the means of interviews, the qualitative data was extracted. Following section deals with how the interview guide was developed and how the questions were designed to extract appropriate data from the respondents.
For research approach we worked on qualitative study. The main interest of the researcher for qualitative study is to understand the approach of informants for the meaning of a particular situation (Merriam, 2002). Thus, our study fits the qualitative approach as it investigates the approach of employees to understand how firms maintain the power relations.
Qualitative research approach embeds five types of research design. These are ethnography, narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory and case study (Cresswell, 2012). We chose case study as our research design. The unit analysis of the study is the power relations in the supply chain. The case study explores multiple bounded systems in particular time with in-depth analysis and the source of information is interviews. Case study enabled us to examine the employees’ perspectives in the topic of power relations and analyze the effects of the four components to maintain the supply chain power relations in the dyadic relationship of firms.
To understand the topic from different angles, multiple cases were studied. Multiple case study concentrates on one issue as main drive of the study and to serve the aim of the thesis the multiple cases are selected (Cresswell, 2012). Our thesis focused on developing a notion on how the power relations are maintained so to understand the different approaches of power holding scenarios the multiple cases are used. Examining mainly the different characteristics the companies show in the power relations was the main concern of our case study selection. The in-depth understanding of the cases from different perspectives were needed to trace the approaches of these three actors of separate supply chains with dominant, subordinate and mutually dependent stand points in the dyadic relationships.
On the topic of power relations among supply chain members to define the perspectives of firms with different standing point in supply chain relations as such either being the buyer firm or a supplier firm, semi structured interview was chosen as the means of method. Semi-structured interview is defined as the data collection tool in which the interviewee is asked predefined questions with open-ended design by the researcher (Ayres, 2008). The reason behind this choice is the fact that the data we wanted to collect relies on perspective of employees of chosen firms. Thus, interview as a tool enabled us to interact with target groups and observe their ideas rather than conducting a survey and specifying the possible answers that will limit the interviewee. For the thesis concern the aim is to analyze the relationship in between two different firms based on the knowledge and experience each employee has. In that case, the listed steps were followed as stages of thesis road map:
Selection of cases
Design of interviews
Framing questions, preparing an interview guide Piloting and conducting the interview
Selection of cases
Qualitative research brings a different perspective to the case selection process; the important variables are not only the case selection of situations and materials but also the information that these elements contain internally (Flick, 2007). The first step of defining the case selection was to select the target groups and situations to collect data for thesis analysis. Apart from the buyer or the supplier characteristics of the companies, we searched for the companies with different characteristic when it comes to the power relations. The reason behind choosing three cases was that we wanted to examine the different perspectives regarding their supply chain relationships and how they sustain these power relations. The following cases were chosen based on the relationship status they have:
Mutually dependent Dominant
2 Theoretical frame of reference
2.1 Introduction to supply chain
2.2 Power relations theory
2.3 Components to sustain or maintain the relations
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Research Design
3.4 Data Analysis
3.6 Ethical issues
4.1 Company A
4.2 Company B
4.3 Company C
5.5 Interconnection of the components
7 Limitations and Future Research
7.2 Future Research
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Maintaining Power Relations in Supply Chain