This chapter presents the chosen method, which is the tool for fulfilling the purpose through an empirical study in the appropriate scientifically way. Subsequently, the research philosophy, research approach, research design, research method, sampling method, data collection method, data analysis and the research quality are described.
The research onion is used for structuring this chapter (Figure 3). This provides a good overview about the different research philosophies, approaches and methods used in this paper.
Research philosophy – Interpretivism
The research philosophy contains important assumptions on how the researchers see the world. The chosen philosophy lays a solid foundation on the methods that are used in the research strategy (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). Also, it enables the researchers to reach designs beyond their past experience (Blumberg, Cooper, & Schindler, 2014).In addition, it allows the researchers to be more creative (Easterby-Smith, & Lowe, 2002).
There are different research philosophies such as positivism, interpretivism (also called phenomenology), realism and pragmatism (Blumberg, Cooper & Schindler, 2014).
This research follows the path of the interpretivism philosophy. The interpretivist research explains that the social world is constructed and the people give a subjective meaning to this world and that the social world is observed by people. This means that every person interprets the world through their own viewpoint. In addition, the researcher is part of what is observed and sometimes they actively collaborate with the research. The last and third basic principle of the interpretivism research is that it is driven by interests of the researcher. The human interests channel our thinking and also how we see and interpreter the world. It also influences how the questions are chosen and how knowledge is structured (Blumberg, Cooper & Schindler, 2014). Moreover, Blumberg, Cooper and Schindler (2014) stress that “an objective observation of the social world is impossible (pg. 21, 2014).” Researches with the interpretivist philosophy are mostly associated with qualitative techniques, but also quantitative techniques can be used (Williamson, 2002).
This philosophy is followed, because the answers of the participants will be described through the interpretations of the authors. The authors are part of the observation, because they are members of Generation Y and also practice the act of purchasing virtual items. Subsequently, this research is led by the interests of the authors. The interpretivism philosophy is used to lay a solid foundation on the research methods in this study.
Research approach – Abductive
The research approach examines how the theory is going to be applied. It involves data collection methods and the level of the findings’ generalizability (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009).
There are two main research approaches: deductive and inductive. In the deductive approach the theoretical framework is developed before collecting the data. The direction of process is theory to data. In this case, the theory will be tested using the collected data. In the inductive approach, the theory is developed after collecting the data. Within the inductive approach, the process goes from data to theory. The inductive approach is more flexible than the deductive approach, which is highly structured. This approach is mainly used in the collection of qualitative data and the goal is to gain understanding of the meaning. The researcher is part of the research process within this approach (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). There is a third option to research approach – the abductive approach. The difference between inductive and deductive approach is defined as: “abduction differs from induction in that we start from the rule describing a general pattern, and it differs from deduction in that the conclusion is not logically given in the premise” (Danermark, Ekstrom & Jakobsen, p.90, 2001). The abductive approach has the elements of both the inductive- and deductive methods, but stays unique. This approach emphasises the search for the suitable theories and empirical observations (Dubois & Gadde, 2002). This method is called “theory matching” or “systematic combining”, because data collection and theory building happens simultaneously (Kovács & Spens, 2005). The abductive approach process starts with the real-life observations as inductive approach. In some cases the prior theoretical background is needed before that step (Dubois & Gadde, 2002). In the abductive research process, the data gathering and theory matching can happen simultaneously. The steps of the abductive research process are presented in figure 4. After these steps, the final conclusions are presented and suggestions are formed (Kovács & Spens, 2005). The aim of this process is to understand and explain the new phenomenon (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 1994).
This paper adopts the abductive approach, because the basic theoretical framework was developed prior to collecting the data. The collected data was matched with the theoretical framework as other researches (Taylor, Fisher & Dufresne, 2002) call it the “theory matching” or “systematic combining”.
The abductive approach is the most suitable approach, because it needs more flexibility in order to match the theoretical framework and the empirical data. This would not have been possible with a deductive and inductive approach. The interpretivism philosophy and the abductive approach are the foundations for the research.
Research design – Exploratory
A research design is a framework for conducting a research. It involves details about how to obtain the data and how the research is structured in order to solve the problem. The function of the research design is to ensure that the collected data provides the paper with answers on the purpose.
There are two ways to conduct a research design: through an exploratory design or a conclusive design (see figure 5). Exploratory research is usually a flexible and evolving approach. It tries to understand the phenomenon which is difficult to measure. Its objective is to provide insights and give understanding to phenomena. Methods that are used in this design are expert surveys, pilot surveys, qualitative interviews and/or unstructured observations. It rarely involves structured questionnaires or large samples. The exploratory study is divided into qualitative exploration and quantitative exploration. (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
The conclusive design is used, when the clearly defined phenomena is going to be measured. Its objective is to test a specific hypothesis. The most common methods to conduct this design are surveys, databases and/or structured observations. This design is usually based on large samples and data is analysed via quantitative analysis (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
A conclusive study is divided into two constructs: a descriptive research and a casual research. A descriptive research requires prior formulation of a hypothesis or research questions. This study requires a highly planned and structured design. Usually large samples are used within this design. A causal research’ objective is to obtain evidence about the cause-and-effect relationships. It is used for understanding which variables cause the phenomena or to test the hypothesis. Both the descriptive research and the causal research requires a planned and structured design.
The descriptive research is dived into cross-sectional research and longitudinal research. In the cross-sectional analysis, the data is only collected once from any given sample of population elements. The longitudinal research involves a fixed sample which is studied over a longer period of time (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
This research uses the exploratory research design, because the objective of this study is to provide insights on the nature of this phenomenon. This study relates to this research design, because a relatively small sample is used and qualitative interviews are conducted in order to collect the data.
Research method – Qualitative
The research method describes how the research data is collected. There are two main research methods: qualitative research and quantitative research. Qualitative research is mostly unstructured and based on small samples. The intention is to provide a deeper insight and understanding of the topic. The quantitative research deals with numerical information and results are applied through measurements and statistical analysis (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
This paper conducts a qualitative research, because the purpose is to provide depth within the respondents’ motivations for purchasing virtual items. Within this topic, qualitative research is more suitable than quantitative research because quantitative research lacks in providing deepness within the motivation of the respondents (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
Qualitative research methods can be divided into direct (non-disguised) and indirect (disguised) approaches. The direct approach is not disguised, which means that participants are aware that they are part of the sample and that their answers are collected. Within an indirect approach, the participants are not aware that they are part of the research. The observation techniques and projective can be used in the indirect approach (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). The indirect approach is used to make sure the participants act as naturally as possible. This research is conducted via a direct approach.
The most common direct approaches are group interviews (focus groups) and in-depth interviews. The main benefits of focus groups is the synergy that happens within the group. Participants actively reveal ideas and others might “feed” from this. On the other hand, the main drawback within focus groups is the possibility of participants feeling shy or intimidated, especially with sensitive topics. This research is conducted via in-depth interviews, because not everyone might feel free to express their gaming experiences and purchases in the group. This technique is a direct, personal interview with a single participant. An in-depth interview is based on a conversation, where the researcher is asking questions and listening to the participant. The goal is to create a positive atmosphere. The atmosphere has to be very respectful and trustable (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
The in-depth interviews can be divided into structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews. This research uses a semi-structured interview (the interview structure and –questions can be found in appendix A). In this approach, there is an optional list of questions and themes that can be covered. The order of the questions might vary and some questions might be interpreted differently during the interviews. Therefore, additional questions and themes might come up during the interviews. In this approach, there is a place for the respondent to express and more deeply describe their attitudes, comments and values on the topic (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). The usage of semi-structured framework in the interviews allows the participants to give deeper insights in their motivations towards purchasing virtual items.
The sampling method relates to how the participants are approached to take part in this research. There are different types of sampling techniques (see Figure 6). They can be broadly classified as probability sampling techniques and non-probability sampling techniques. Within probability sampling techniques, the sample is selected by a chance. Within non-probability sampling techniques, the researchers have to make a personal judgment in order to choose the sample elements (Malhotra & Birks, 2007).
The non-probability sampling technique can be divided into convenience sampling, judgemental sampling, quota sampling and snowball sampling. The probability sampling techniques can be divided into simple random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling and other sampling techniques.
This research uses judgemental sampling in order to find the participants. Judgemental sampling means that the sample is chosen by the authors, because they believe that they are valid to take part in the research. This is the case, because the authors approached mainly friends that fall in the category of Generation Y and they are studying at Jönköping University. This technique is used, because it is convenient, inexpensive and quick (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). The size of the final sample is 31 participants studying at Jönköping University and member of Generation Y.
Data collection method
The data collection method consists of the way the information was selected and collected to execute this study. This study used the collected primary and secondary data in order to execute the study. Primary data is data which is originated, specifically to address the research problem (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). The primary data of this thesis was collected via in-depth interviews among 31 participants. The interviews took place in Jönköping’s University study rooms, group rooms and student accommodations. The time frame of the interviews was between 04.03.2016 and 20.03.2016. The sample consisted of 7 female and 24 male respondents, who belong to Generation Y, have had experience with video gaming and engaged in micro transactions. All the interviews were conducted in English, because all the participants understand the English language, even though this is not the native language for many participants.
The secondary data was collected from the previous works in this field. The main literature sources used in this paper were Hassouneh and Brengman (2011), Ho and Wu (2012), Kim, Chan and Kankanhalli (2012), Guo and Barnes (2011) and Wohn (2014), Yee (2006a, 2006b) and Lehdonvirta (2005, 2009). Jönköping University’s library database Primo and Google Scholar were used to find this data. The different keywords that were used to find these articles are: “purchasing virtual items”, “virtual items real money”, “virtual items”, “purchases in games”, “behavior in virtual worlds” and “ micro transactions”. Also, the study of the references of the initial studies was used for a broader view on the topic.
There are several methods to analyse the data that was collected from in-depth interviews. Some characteristics of qualitative data are based on meanings expressed by words. Results are non-standardized and it requires classification into categories. Analysis can be done through conceptualization, diagrams and statistics (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). Several possibilities to analyse the data include explanation building, logic models, cross-case synthesis and pattern matching (Yin, 2009).
When using the abductive approach with qualitative interviews, Yin (2009) suggests to use pattern matching when analysing the data. The same technique is used in this paper. This procedure predicts the patters of outcomes based on theoretical propositions (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). In order to utilize this approach, the theoretical framework has to be developed, utilizing the existing theory and testing the adequacy of the analytical framework. The transcriptions of the interviews will be used to find common patterns in the answers of the participants. In the coding process, the relevant distinctive features of participants’ perceptions and experiences were highlighted. The thematic analysis approach was used, which deals with the key themes (King & Horrocks, 2010). The data was highlighted and categorized through the five values according to the theory of consumption values.
The most relevant key themes, quotes, opinions and perspectives were highlighted during the coding process. Authors systematically summarised all interviews and compared similar traits among every transcript. The key themes of all transcripts were structured under the five consumption values. The coding of the data is an important part of the research in order to ensure the confirmability of the paper. The connections between the data and theory got created after the key themes got identified.
There are different methods to ensure the quality of the research. The most common are representability, reliability and validity. These methods are used to ensure the quality and trustworthiness of the data (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). Representability, reliability and validity are used usually in quantitative researches. Since this research is qualitative, reliability and validity has to be adapted to qualitative research (Bryman & Bell, 2015). Guba (1985) and Guba and Lincoln (1994) have proposed two primary criteria to ensure the quality of the qualitative researches: trustworthiness and authenticity. Trustworthiness consists of four criteria for quantitative research (Bryman & Bell, 2015).
• Credibility (which parallels internal validity)
• Transferability (which parallels external validity)
• Dependability (which parallels reliability)
• Confirmability (which parallels objectivity)
Credibility parallels with the internal validity which means that the data collected should reflect the reality. The credibility deals with the question: “How congruent are the findings with reality?” (Shenton, 2004). In order to ensure the credibility of this study, the participants should be encouraged to be honest and open (Shenton, 2004). Follow-up questions and confirmation questions should be included within the interviews. This research has been examined in a positive atmosphere, where the participants were encouraged to be honest and open about the topic. Follow-up questions and confirmation questions have been asked in order to make sure that the results are congruent.
Transferability is a criteria which shows the extent to which the findings of one study can be applied to other situations. It is usually challenging to demonstrate this, due to a relatively small sample (Shenton, 2004). However, Firestone (1993) states that the researcher can provide the readers with sufficient information about the fieldwork to enable the reader to transfer knowledge to other populations or situations. The important information about the study is clearly explained in order to increase the transferability of the study. Elements in order to ensure transferability suggested by researches are present in this study (Cole & Gardner, 1979; Marchionini & Teague, 1987). This information consists of elements such as the number of participants, the data collection methods, the number and the time of data collection and the time period, which are all included in this paper.
Dependability is a parallel to reliability in a quantitative research. Shenton (pg. 9, 2004) describes dependability as “if the work were repeated, in the same context, with the same methods and with same participants, similar results would be obtained.” Guba and Lincoln (1994) call this approach an “auditing approach”. The research process, design and methods are extensively described in order to improve the dependability (Bryman & Bell, 2015). Furthermore, a trial interview has been performed in order to test the interview structure as well as the capability of the interviewers.
Confirmability is concerned with the objectivity of the study. The researcher has to ensure that the research goes objective without any biases (Shenton, 2004). In order to ensure the objectivity of this study, the researchers have been trying to understand how to impartially perform an in-depth interview. Also, the interviews were recorded and transcribed in order to ensure the quality of the findings. Finally, both of the authors were present in order to ensure the same goal and direction. One of the authors took notes each interview and if needed, suggested additional questions.
This research is examined via an interpretivism philosophy and an abductive research approach as a foundation for this study. The research design is exploratory because the objective of this study is to provide insights on the nature of this phenomenon. The chosen research method is qualitative, because qualitative research offers the researchers the opportunity to go deeper into the motivations of players engaging in micro transactions. Judgemental sampling is used in order to ensure that the people approached suit within the requirements of the sample. Primary and secondary data has been collected in order to execute this study and the data has been analysed via pattern matching. The trustworthiness of the study was examined by four quality criteria (credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability) to ensure the excellence of the work.
Table of Contents
1.2 Problem discussion & purpose
1.3 Research questions
1.7 Structure of the paper
2. Theoretical framework
2.1 Video gaming industry
2.2 Micro transactions
2.3 Generation Y
2.4 Previous research linked to the theory of consumption values
3.1 Research philosophy – Interpretivism
3.2 Research approach – Abductive
3.3 Research design – Exploratory
3.4 Research method – Qualitative
3.5 Sampling technique
3.6 Data collection method
3.7 Data analysis
3.8 Research quality
4. Empirical findings
4.1 Characteristics of participants
4.2 Functional value
4.3 Social value
4.4 Emotional value
4.5 Epistemic Value
4.6 Conditional value
5.1 Functional value
5.2 Social value
5.3 Emotional value
5.4 Epistemic value
5.5 Conditional value
6. Conclusions and discussion
6.1 Research questions
6.2 Theoretical implications
6.3 Managerial implications
6.4 Limitations & future research
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