Positivistic and Hermeneutic philosophical approaches
The nature of positivism is based on experimental and statistical methods and assump-tions. It is also of importance that a researcher is independent and not affected by the subject of the research as to make the result as objective as possible (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). The research should be built on objective and value-free facts if the positivism criteria should be fulfilled (Saunders et al., 2009). Because of the research group’s dynamics, one of the researchers belongs to the population being researched and has therefore influenced the structure of the research and consequently the criteria of the positivistic approach has not fully been fulfilled. Since two members of the group are not influenced by the research, the study can be examined objectively giving the thesis, to a larger extent a value-free view on the research. The nature of positivism is identified by the data collection techniques that are most often practiced in highly struc-tured and quantitative methods where the measurement is an important characteristic (Saunders et al., 2009). By using the SERVQUAL measurement and collecting quan-titative data to analyze the educational service quality, gives the thesis a positivistic phi-losophical approach.
The Hermeneutics philosophy, unlike the one of Positivism is very subjective where the researcher’s value plays a role which cannot be separated from the actual research (Saunders, 2009); this means that the researcher to some degree can influence the results because of the researcher’s knowledge about the subject. The nature of the Hermeneutic philosophy is that it is socially constructed and subjective and therefore suggests that in-depth investigations and qualitative research is the right approach for this type of re-search. Even if the research for the thesis is influenced by knowledge that one of the group members have about a certain population, the overall structure of the thesis has the Positivistic philosophical approach
Inductive and Deductive research orientations
A Deductive research approach is a highly structured approach where quantitative data is collected and where the researcher is independent of the area being researched. The collected data must fulfill requirements of an explanation of the casual relationship be-tween different variables and enough data must be collected in order to generalize a conclusion (Saunders et al., 2009). In addition, Ghauri and Gronhaug (2010) explain that the approach of deduction is supported by logic instead of actual evidence, in other words the conclusions made by researchers are supported by logic but there is conse-quently a risk with this approach that the speculation might not be completely true. For a deductive approach a hypothesis is created from already existing knowledge and is later examined by whatever findings were encountered and from there one can either draw a conclusion on the hypothesis’ validity or falsity (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010).
An alternative is the Inductive approach which is used when a researcher gains an un-derstanding of the research context. The researcher is part of the research process where the collection of the qualitative data is more flexible and not as structured as in the De-ductive approach (Saunders et al., 2009). By using the inductive approach, the research-er make his or her final conclusion on previous empirical investigation and the proce-dure of an inductive research approach goes from the researcher’s observations, to his or her findings and lastly to the stage where the current theory and new findings are merged in order to build new, improved theories (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2010).
According to Saunders et al., (2009) the above mentioned approaches give researchers an advantage if they are used simultaneously in the same research. For this reason, with consideration of the diversity of the members of the research group, the approach for our research is a combination of an inductive and a deductive approach. Since the group members are students attending Jönköping University, the group has a thorough under-standing of the research context. In addition, since one of the group members is affected by the research to some extent, the group will not be completely separated from the ac-tual research as is the case of a deductive research approach (Saunders et al., 2009).
Ghauri and Gronhaug (2005) suggest three research designs to choose from depending on the actual problem the researcher is facing. The exploratory approach is an approach that is used when the problem being researched is hard to grasp and when the researcher does not have much information regarding the issue. The exploratory research involves different methods of collecting data such as observing, gathering information and trying to find an explanation to a rather new issue being researched (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005). Saunders et al., (2009) also suggest that an exploratory study is finding out “what is happening” and to understand and seek information regarding a certain pheno-mena or problem.
The descriptive research looks at what the actual situation is like and the researcher should possess prior knowledge and information regarding the subject being studied (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005). Collecting data is necessary and can either be done through surveys or interviews where well-designed and carefully considered questions must be composed in order to be able to gather the needed data (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005). Robson (2002) states that a descriptive research should “portray an accurate pro-file of persons, events or situations”.
A third approach is the approach of explanatory studies which answers the question of “why” something is the way it is through studying possible relationships between va-riables (Saunders et al., 2009; Williamson, 2002).To gain an understanding of the re-port, the collected data can be examined by running several statistical tests, such as One Sample Tests in the likes of frequency analyses (Saunders et al., 2009).
For this study, a combination of the descriptive and the explanatory approach has been used where a questionnaire, interview and statistical tests have provided the researchers with an understanding of the current situation and possible explanations of the relation-ship between the different determinants and the studied countries.
Quantitative and Qualitative research methods
In practice there are two different methods that can be used to collect the data needed for a research. These methods are known as qualitative and quantitative methods. Inter-active data collection, where interpreting interviews in order to find a meaningful pat-tern which describes a certain phenomenon, is known as a qualitative data collection (Auberbach & Silverstein, 2003). The qualitative method is largely connected to data gathering techniques that are mainly collecting non-numerical data, from interviews for instance (Saunders et al., 2009). Another reason for using qualitative data is that when researching in a different culture, or studying a population from a different culture, the interview questions are often unstructured and can therefore be reformulated more easi-ly and fewer misunderstandings of the questions may occur (Gronhaug & Ghauri, 2005). In addition, qualitative research provides the study with a deeper insight into the research and can cut out any psychic distances between the researchers and the popula-tion being studied, which is often the case when conducting a study across different cul-tures (Gronhaug & Ghauri, 2005).
The term quantitative data collection is data that can be analyzed by calculations and statistics without making any effort of implementing an in-depth analysis (Gorard, 2003). Even if both quantitative and qualitative methods are applicable to the philosoph-ical approach of Positivism, the method of quantitative research is more suitable (Wil-liamson, 2002).
1.2 Problem discussion
1.4 Research questions
1.7 Previous research
1.8 Disposition of the thesis
2 Theoretical Framework
2.1 Nature of service
2.2 SERVQUAL – How to measure service quality
2.3 Zone of Tolerance
2.4 Cultural theories by Geert Hofstede
2.5 Dimensions of national culture
3.1 Positivistic and Hermeneutic philosophical approaches
3.2 Inductive and Deductive research orientations
3.3 Research approach
3.4 Quantitative and Qualitative research methods
3.6 Validity of data
3.7 Reliability of data
3.8 Generalizability of data
3.9 Collection of data
4 Empirical data
4.1 Quantitative empirical data
4.2 Qualitative empirical data
5.1 Descriptive analysis
5.2 Standard deviation of the collected data
5.3 Description of the scales of the questionnaire .
5.4 Analysis based on results from One Sample T-Test
5.5 Qualitative analysis
6 Conclusions and discussion
6.2 Discussion and further research suggestions
6.3 Managerial recommendations
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Educational Service Quality in Sweden A perspective of students from the BRIC countries