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Methodology of the Empirical Study Essay

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Data Collection Procedures

The choice of data collection procedures is critical for any empirical study because researchers must make sure that their methods can help them gather relevant and accurate information about people’s behavior, decisions, and attitudes. This task is particularly relevant when one speaks about the examination of organizational behavior. In turn, improper methods can invalidate the entire study. The researchers, who conduct qualitative studies, prefer to use some of the following techniques: 1) direct and participant observation; 2) the study of archival documents; 3) interviews, and 4) the study of physical objects (Merriam, 2009, p. 231). This research involved such methods as interviews, textual analysis, and direct observation. They can best meet the goals of the study. They were particularly suitable for the investigation of people’s work practices, strategies, experiences, and opinions. Therefore, it is important to show how these methods were used in the course of this study and how they increased their validity and reliability. These are the main important issues that should be discussed in the following sections.

In-depth Interview

In-depth Interview is one of the most widespread techniques that are used in qualitative studies (Hatch, 2002, p. 23). This method is primarily suitable in those cases when there are a small number of respondents and an interviewer can explore the ideas, experiences, and opinions of subjects in more detail (Hatch, 2002, p. 23). The main advantage of this technique is that it can throw light on different dimensions of a certain problem or question. Moreover, participants can mention point to some issues or ideas that a researcher might not consider at the beginning (Hatch, 2002, p. 23). The answers of respondents are significantly restricted during the course of this interview. This is why this method was selected for this study.

Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that interviews can be organized in different ways. In particular, one can mention such types as structured surveys, open-ended interviews, and semi-structured interviews (Carter-Carter, 2009, p. 7). Each of these techniques has its advantages and disadvantages, and they should be taken into account by scholars. For example, a standardized or structured interview is based on a predetermined set of questions, and very often respondents only have to choose a certain option while answering them (Carter-Carter, 2009, p. 7). This approach is suitable in those cases a researcher has to survey many subjects and it is vital to meet rigid timelines. In contrast, an unstructured interview is beneficial since it enables a scholar to modify his/her questions depending on the responses of the subjects (Carter-Carter, 2009, p. 7). The main strength of this technique is its flexibility. In contrast, a semi-structured interview combines the strengths of the first two techniques. One of its important attributes is flexibility because an interviewer can formulate questions in different ways or clarify them. However, at the same time, this approach can help a researcher stay focused on the question or issue that should be examined (Carter-Carter, 2009, p. 7). These are the main positives of this technique, and they distinguish it among other qualitative methods.

On the whole, the use of semi-structured interviews proved to be very helpful for the study of yield management (YM) in Saudi hotels. This method of data collection threw light on the use of YM by managers working in the hospitality industry. In particular, the interview illustrated how managers could use this technique in an effort to maximize revenues and increase the loyalty of customers. Apart from that, this conversation with respondents explained what kind of challenges these people faced. Overall, it is possible to argue that the use of semi-structured interviews is particularly suitable when one has to examine the work of professionals who have to cope with various challenges and problems (Bryman & Bell 2007, p. 474). This is why this technique is often used during business studies (Bryman & Bell 2007, p. 474). In the course of interviews, the researcher can ask these people various open-ended questions and the respondents will be able to share their ideas about the use of yield management. These people can also explain how they resolve different problems and how they improve the work of their organizations. Thus, one can argue the use of in-depth interviews best corresponds to the needs of this research. The course of this study showed that this choice was quite justified.

Nevertheless, one should take into account that this research method has several disadvantages which should not be overlooked. First of all, this data collection method is very time-consuming, since respondents spoke about a variety of issues, and it was not always possible to control the time of the interview. This is the main weakness of a semi-structured interview in comparison with standardized interviews (Anderson, 2004, p. 148). Additionally, it was necessary to translate the text of the interviews from Arabic into English since some of the interviewers were not able to speak English freely. Therefore, I had to ensure that the translation reflected the ideas expressed by these respondents. So, it was important for me to remain objective and unbiased while working with the transcripts of the interview. Finally, the use of in-depth interviews can be beneficial if an investigator has well-developed communicative skills (Anderson, 2004, p. 148). Provided that a researcher does not have these skills, a respondent may not feel comfortable or even decide to end an interview (Anderson, 2004, p. 148). These are some of the risks that scholars should be aware of while doing their research. Fortunately, I was able to avoid this problem during my conversations with hotel managers.

It should be mentioned that this study involved the interview of twenty professionals working in twenty Saudi hotels. Moreover, these hotels were located in Riyadh, Macho, as well as Eastern Area. When speaking about these regions, one should mention that the development of the hospitality industry can be in part attributed to religious tourism (Raj & Morpeth, 2005, p. 100). Additionally, the professionals, who have been selected for the study, have significant experiences and are familiar with the best practices adopted in the hospitality industry. This is why their opinions are very valuable. Furthermore, these people work with different clients who can be divided into two major groups, namely tourists and business travelers. Therefore, the interviewees could tell what customers expected from hotels and how these clients responded to the initiatives of managers. It was necessary to make preliminary phone calls to arrange the meeting with these hotel managers. This task was very important for the success of this research, because these professionals had a very tight schedule, and it was not always easy for them to find the time for this interview. During these interviews, I tried to explore different themes. In particular, they were related to various issues such as the benefits of yield management, the limitations of this technique, the experiences of managers, and the ways in which they manage revenues. As it has been said before, some of the interviews were conducted in Arabic, since some of the respondents did not speak English fluently. Finally, follow-up calls were made in order to clarify some of the responses that were unclear. These follow-up calls were important for increasing the reliability of the study. These are the main steps that I undertook.

Apart from that, I developed an interview guide that was used during the conversation with hotel managers. This document did not contain every detail of the interview, but it did present the list of themes that had to be discussed with respondents. Each of the interviewees received a copy of this outline, and these people could better prepare for the conversation. Overall, this task was very important for me because I had to make sure that each respondent had a good idea about the questions that I could ask. These precautions were extremely important for productive communication with managers. If these steps had not been taken, it would have been difficult for me to talk with these professionals.

Additionally, the respondents were assured that their confidential data will not be disclosed to any third parties. In particular, I told them that this research would not reveal information that could threaten the competitiveness of the hotel or their professional career. Furthermore, the identity of interviewees was not revealed in this study. These people were told that the goal of this study was not supposed to discuss a specific hotel or manager. More likely, it was aimed at identifying the general tendencies, regarding the use of yield management. These issues were addressed before the start of the interview because, in this way, it was possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and reassure the respondents. This is why the interviewees could feel more relaxed.

Sample

The selection of a sample is one of the most important tasks that should be completed before the start of interviews. The key problem is that in many cases one cannot ensure random selection of the respondents for the study (Gerrish & Lacey, 2010, p. 277). Under the given circumstances, the most important criterion is the accessibility of participants for the study (Gerrish & Lacey, 2010, p. 277). Additionally, the size of the sample also has to be limited; this argument is particularly relevant to this study which was based on such time-consuming methods as semi-structured interviews or observation. It has to be admitted that this approach has several limitations because the hotels chosen for the research might not represent the best practices adopted in the hospitality industry. Furthermore, the interviewers might not be familiar with the best uses of yield management. These are the main challenges that should not be disregarded. Nevertheless, these limitations do not invalidate the study. It is primarily aimed at describing the ways in which managers increase revenues and interact with customers by using yield management. However, this research was not supposed to develop the best models and applications of yield management. Moreover, it did not have to test a certain hypothesis or conjecture that should be proved with the help of statistical methods. The most important task is to make sure that respondents could speak about the wide array of issues related to the application of hotel management. Furthermore, they should be able to talk about the issues that were not initially mentioned. Thus, the limited sample did not prevent the study from achieving its goals.

Another important step is the selection of professionals for the interview. These people were experienced in different aspects of yields management. It should be kept in mind that this study touched upon a wide array of questions such as the pricing policies, customer management, and the behavior of clients. Therefore, the interviewees had to be experienced in different fields. The procedure was affected by such factors as time constraints and the limited number of people. This is why the number of participants had to be reduced to only twenty participants. It seems that this sample size was sufficient for exploring the experiences of managers working in Saudi hotels and their views on the applications of yield management.

Interview procedure

The interviews were carried out at the hotels where the respondents were employed. These people could choose the time and place that were most convenient for them. It seems that this opportunity is critical for these people because they are responsible for numerous tasks and they cannot be distracted from their workplace duties. I paid close attention to the questions that were asked during the interview. To a great extent, these questions prompted interviewees to express their ideas and opinions about the use of yield management. The participants were not forced to give answers that the researcher expects from them. This approach helped me to make this conversation more informative. In the course of the conversation, hotel managers could speak about different issues such as their job responsibilities, customer management, the adoption of yield management in their daily work, and the policies adopted in these hotels. The interview with participants was critical for understanding the culture of these hotels, the professional background of respondents, their daily tasks, and their approach to the management of revenues. The interviews lasted from 30 to 50 minutes depending upon the responses of hotel managers. Additionally, the interview involved the use of a recorder provided that participants agreed to be recorded. The majority of them agreed to be recorded. On the whole, it is possible to say that each of the hotel managers willingly took part in the interview, and they agreed to answer each of the questions. I can say that they were greatly interested in this conversation and they were willing to share their ideas with me.

Evaluation of results

After I had conducted a series of interviews with the managers and I had to look at the answers that they provided and evaluate this information. One of the most important tasks was to identify some of the common responses and ideas expressed by interviewees (Tesch, 1990). First of all, I had to divide their responses into groups according to certain criteria. In particular, they were categorized according to such areas as pricing strategies, HR practices, customer management, the use of third-party websites, occupancy rates, and so forth. In this way, I tried to determine whether the answers of the interviewees were relevant. Overall, the examination of these data showed to me that the interviews had achieved their goals, and I had been able to collect sufficient information about the use of yield management in different Saudi hotels. I have to admit that some of the answers were not directly relevant to the practices of managers. Many hotel managers strongly relied on narrative forms while describing their use of yield management and some of their responses were not directly related to the questions that I set. However, such situations are typical of qualitative studies that involve in-depth interviews. Moreover, additional information can help understand various aspects of hotel managers’ work and their daily challenges. Furthermore, these stories throw light on the attitude and beliefs of these professionals. This is why the narratives of the respondents should not be overlooked. In many cases, these responses can be even more informative, than straightforward answers.

In many cases, interviewees preferred to give descriptive responses that were aimed at explaining their major activities and tasks. In my opinion, this information is very valuable because hotel managers explained how their resolved different problems and applied yield management. However, it is necessary to take into account possible limitations. The problem is that interviewees could avoid speaking about their limitations and their mistakes. Therefore, it is possible to assume that they could give an inaccurate description of their work. These is the main issues that I had to take into account while assessing information. This is why it is necessary to look at these answers from a critical perspective. On the whole, I can say that the respondents were willing to discuss their work and use of yield management. They did not try to conceal anything while talking about the practices adopted in their hotels. It should be noted that they did not always agree with the policies of senior executive officers, but they were committed to the organizational goals of their companies. This is one of the main points that I can make. It is possible for me to argue that the respondents did not differ significantly in terms of their openness or willingness to share ideas. Therefore, I can argue that their attitude toward hotel managers improved the accuracy of this research.

Direct observation

The main goal of observation was to compare the room rate parity of various distribution channels. Moreover, I intended to examine the relations between yield management practices and room rate parity in various hotels. This is one of the goals that I tried to achieve during my study. This task could be best accomplished through direct observation. At first, I focused on the most popular Web sites that are used by people who travel to Saudi Arabia. Additionally, I studied direct distribution channels that were associated with a particular hotel. Among direct channels, one can distinguish between hotel websites as well as central reservation systems. These resources are important for the interaction between clients and hotels. In turn, I had to look at the data from such websites as Agoda.com and Booking.com because they are often used by people who want to book a room at a hotel. It was necessary to look at room rates for a specific room. My observations were made during the period between December 13 and January 24. This interval was chosen because, during this time, there were important events that could have affected the behavior of tourists. During December, I checked the rates once a week. In particular, I examined the room rates every Thursday of every week. This particular day was chosen because Thursday is a part of the weekend in Saudi Arabia. Overall, the use of observation as a method was of great use to me, because in this way I was able to examine the differences between direct and indirect distribution channels. Moreover, I was able to investigate different types of data.

Documentation

Researchers and scholars also note that textual analysis of documents can be successfully incorporated into qualitative studies (Buchanan & Bryman, 2009, p. 202). Very often official documentation that describes the practices of companies can throw light on the issues that were not mentioned during the interviews (Buchanan & Bryman, 2009, p. 202). It should be noted that many business administrators are reluctant to provide these documents, in part because they are afraid of disclosing confidential information. I had to address this issue before the start of the interview. This is why I made this request at the end of my interview guide which had been said to the hotel managers beforehand. In particular, I wanted to investigate work descriptions, annual reports, market surveys, annual reports, training schedules, and other documents. Unfortunately, the policies of many hotels did not permit outsiders to get access to confidential data, especially if it was closely related to their internal operations. However, some of them did allow me to examine their annual reports, and these data were of great value to me. While studying these documents, I had to take into account a very important peculiarity of reporting standards in many hotels. In particular, the information that hotels provided to external stakeholders could give a slightly idealized description of these organizations. In contrast, the internal documents gave a more objective assessment of these hotels and their performance. This is the main difference that scholars should be aware of. It is possible for me to argue that textual analysis did help me to improve the quality of the study, but its benefits could have been greater if more hotels had enabled me to examine their internal data.

Analysis

The analysis is probably the most important part of any qualitative study. It is aimed at identifying common patterns, themes or responses within the collected data (Grinnell & Unrau, 2011, p. 448). In this way, a scholar can draw relevant conclusions and find answers to the questions set at the very beginning. The analysis of the information was particularly challenging for this study because 9 of the interviewees did not agree to be recorded. Therefore, I had to rely only on my interview notes. Furthermore, I had to ensure the accuracy of my translations from Arabic. These are some of the difficulties that I had to overcome. When analyzing data, I used coding approaches that helped me to identify the common categories and themes. This procedure was essential for identifying the most common ideas that the respondents expressed. Additionally, I strongly relied on thematic analysis in order to single out some of the main issues that respondents raised during the conversation. On the whole, this stage of the study was important for answering the main research questions.

Ethics

Ethics is an important component in every study because the activities of a researcher can profoundly influence a great number of stakeholders, especially respondents and the organizations that they represent (Chorlian, 2008, p. 25). It is critical for a scholar to ensure that the rights of every participant are well-protected (Chorlian, 2008, p. 25). In this case, close attention should be paid to such issues as the anonymity, disclosure of confidential information, and accuracy of the findings derived in the course of the study. These risks are particularly relevant to business research (Chorlian, 2008, p. 25). Therefore, a scholar should remember that his/her study must not harm people or companies participating in the study.

This study was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Council. Moreover, some of the following precautions were made. It should be noted that each of the interviewees was informed about the objectives of this research and the main questions that I was interested in. These are some of the main precautions that I took. Additionally, respondents were allowed to review my notes and remove those sections that they did not want to be mentioned in the study. This form of interaction is important for empirical studies because participants should give their informed consent to a researcher (Klenke, 2008, p. 50). I also assigned nicknames to each of the hotel managers in order to ensure anonymity. Furthermore, the results of my textual analysis were not accessible to any of the third parties because I was concerned about the security of private data. More importantly, the electronic data were stored in a secured folder that was not available to other people. One of my goals was not to disclose information that could harm the reputation of the hotels or the career of managers. This is the main pitfall that I tried to avoid. Overall, these procedures were critical for conforming to the ethical standards that are currently set for researchers.

Reliability of the methods

Other important issues that should not be overlooked are the validity and reliability of the study. Every researcher should take these aspects into account while designing a study or analyzing results. Close attention should be paid to the applications of research methods and the interpretation of data. The concept of reliability means that the results of the research can be replicated provided that the same study is carried out (Rubin & Babbie, 2009, p. 88). One should note that this notion is not applicable only to the quantitative research method. Qualitative studies also have to meet certain reliability standards. In this particular context, this notion means that other scholars, who may interview these hotel managers, can receive similar responses (Rubin & Babbie, 2009, p. 88). Overall, business researchers adopt several strategies in order to increase the reliability of their studies; for instance, they prefer to conduct follow-up interviews during which they ask similar questions. They should look at the answers provided by the subjects and compare their new findings to the initial ones.

Unfortunately, these precautions could not be taken during this study because many of the hotel managers were not able to participate in the follow-up interviews because of their tight schedules. Furthermore, it is difficult to argue that other researchers would achieve the same results while analyzing data. The problem is that they can take a different approach when analyzing the answers of respondents. However, I did take some measures that were supposed to increase the reliability of the findings. First of all, I used a tape recorder in order to write down the verbatim answers of hotel managers. Such a strategy is very helpful because in many cases the responses of interviewees can be distorted (Smart, 20008). Later, this strategy helped me to examine the answers of hotel managers in more detail. Apart from that, my analysis of the findings was peer-reviewed by other people who looked at the accuracy of my interpretations. This assistance proved of great use to me because they point out some of my fallacies. Furthermore, while looking at the text of my interviews, I tried to set aside my opinions, values, and views of yield management and the hotel industry. These are the main challenging that I had to overcome while examining the data that I collected.

Validity is also critical for the success of any qualitative study. Very often, it is used to refer to the soundness of the evidence and conclusions that the researcher provides (Polit & Beck, 2009, p. 106). Apart from that, scholars pay close attention to such a term as construct validity. In this case, the idea of validity implies that the research questions set by a researcher can prompt respondents to give relevant answers (Goodwin, 2009, p. 132). This concept is equally relevant to both quantitative and qualitative studies. Scholars take different precautions in an effort to increase the validity of methods. One of the strategies is called triangulation which means that a researcher collects data from multiple sources or the combination of different research methods (Bross, 2008, p. 101). I also adopted this approach while conducting this study. This is why I relied on interviews, direct observations, and textual analysis. Furthermore, I used different sources of information in order to increase the validity.

Additionally, I paid close attention to the selection of the interviewees. These people occupy leading positions in their hotels, and these people are aware of various challenges that their organizations face. They know how yield management is applied in order to increase revenues and retain customers. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that the data was collected from different hotels. These organizations used different strategies to remain competitive. This is why it is difficult to generalize the findings. Nevertheless, the results of this study can show various uses of yield management.

Summary

This chapter describes the way in which research methods were used and the way in which the data were evaluated and analyzed. Furthermore, this section is aimed at explaining how the validity of findings was ensured. First of all, it should be mentioned that this research was based on such methods as a semi-structured interview, textual analysis, and direct observation. These techniques were important for the reliability and validity of the study. Apart from that, the study involved the examination of different sources that could show how hotels used yield management techniques. Furthermore, several steps were taken to protect the confidential data and anonymity of the main stakeholders.

References

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