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Research Methodologies in Industrial Psychology Essay

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Abstract

This paper covers a number of modern research methodologies. In the first part a research matrix is used to highlight the key characteristics, terminologies, specific examples as well as strength and weakness of selected qualitative and quantitative research methods. This reveals the uniqueness of each method and thence their suitability for a research study. Also, the matrix clearly illustrates that the choice of a particular methodology is shaped by the type of the research to be undertaken. The second section discusses how industrial /organizations psychology is applied in solving workplaces problems with specific reference to experimental and survey research method. It is argued that as the dynamics of workplace get more sophisticated such methods will be crucial in promoting improvement and general wellness at workplace.

Research Matrix: Qualitative Methods.

Common qualitative designs Key characteristics Specific terminology Strengths and weaknesses Example study
Case study A single person ,event,process,organization ,social group or phenomenon is investigated within a certain timeframe in a natural setting
-Makes use of various methods in data collection: interviews, secondary sources, & observation /unstructured.
-lack of previous theory
Positivist

Interpretivist

Phenomenon

Weakness:non-represantitive and thus void of statitistical generalizability
  • low repeatability
  • low deductability

Strength:

  • high discoverability & representability
Case study on visual management by Murata and Katayama (Murata & Katayama, 2010)
Grounded theory Based on “relatively flexible set of principles and practices, rather than stringent formulaic rules” (Babchuk, 2011, p. 385)
-does not employed formulated hypothesis unlike other qualitative designs (Babchuk, 2011)
-involves iterative data collection and analysis (Babchuk, 2011)
Concept

Conceptual relationships

Categories

Inductive Coding

Postulate

Theoretical sampling

Constant comparison

Weaknesses: Uses an array of codes, jargon, and personal notes difficult to decipher and implement especially for novice researchers (Babchuk, 2011)

Difficult to set a time scale for research as exhaustive data,but flexible data gathering is required (Goulding, 2005)
Strength: allow wide range of data and data collection methods.

On field assessment of adult education

To investigate a marketing phenomenon

Ethnographic -Involves gathering data about people first hand through observing and questioning (Lambert, Glacken & MacCarron, 2010)
-Employs various modes of data collection, presents multiple perspectives, focuses on small case number ( Lambert, Glacken & MacCarron, 2010)
-labor intensive
-analysis is based on the social and cultural context of the research unit.
Natural setting, data coding

Emic and etic interpretations

Reflexive –research is “part of the world that is under study and is consequently affected by it” (ctd. In (Goulding, 2005, p.300)

Content analysis- technique for making inference from text data (Goulding, 2005)

Weakness
  • high likelihood of researcher bias due to it unstructured and subjective nature
  • Difficult as culture is rarely explicit impossible to repeat/replicate the research for verification

    Strength:
    Little chance of researcher influencing the type of data collected
    -high explorability

Studying consumer behavior e.g. Study of adolescents and their use of advertisement (Goulding, 2005)

Quantitative Methods.

Common quantitative designs Key characteristics Specific terminology Strengths and weaknesses Example study
Descriptive Describes the study sample without any manipulation or influence. May also involve comparing it with other sub-groups (Skinner, Patel,Thomas & Miller, 2011)
-relies purely on observation
Study cohort Weakness: Results cannot be statistically analyzed as there is no manipulation of variables
low validity and repeatability/replicability

Strength

  • High explorability
Study of habits of consumers of a certain product
Correlational Seeks to define relationships among variables that are not manipulated or cannot be manipulated (Fitzgerald, Rumrill & Schenker, 2004) Predictor

Criterion

Scatterplots-used for determining strength of a relationship

Strength:Suitable for research study in which it is not possible to manipulate the independent variable of interest (Fitzgerald et al., 2004)

Weaknesses-
Multicollinearity presents difficulty in explaining each predictor and hence accuracy (Fitzgerald et al., 2004)

Study of relationship between income and life satisfaction among people with disabilities.
-Relationship
Between caregiver disability-related stress, social support, and hope (predictor variables) and distress (criterion variable).
True experimental Study units must be randomly allocated to comparison condition (Bauman, 1997)

Involves rigorous check of the variable before subjecting it to a sample under controlled settings

Effect size

Randomization

Control group

Provides a reliable causal inference due to randomization of study units with controls (Bauman, 1997)

Weaknesses: -numerous similar studies are necessary to generate effect sizes (Bauman, 1997)
-It may not be possible to complete the whole population in a large geographical area (Bauman, 1997)
Some variables cannot be manipulated

Family planning programs e.g. Determining fertility in a region

How experimental research and survey research are used for solving basic and applied problems in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology

Industrial/organization (I/O) psychology is an important scientific discipline, with applications useful in enhancing organizational performance. Industrial/Organizational psychology has been defined as “a behavioral science that focuses on behavior related to the work environment” (Mullins, 1998, n.p). Mullins (1998) states that I/O psychology is closely related empirical psychology and its postulates are central in predicting how modifications of work conditions affect workers performance (Mullins, 1998). The two main types of problems in industrial/organization psychology are: basic and applied (Mullins,1998). According to the American Society for Industrial and Organization Psychology (SIOP), basic problems have high variability and may be shaped by the investigator’s interest. Examples include research on methods of behavioral assessment, communication, incentive, social interaction and management (SIOP). On the other hand, applied problems and activities are centred around scientific approaches to workplace problems. They include recruitment, selection and placement, training, performance measurement, motivation, quality of work life, consumer behavior and the structure of work and human factors (SIOP).

I/O psychologists use a variety of techniques in their research on human behavior thought and emotions in the workplace (Arnold, Cooper, & Robertson, 2004).One of these techniques, surveys, are designed to gather quantitative information about a certain aspect from a large number of people. The data collected is later analyzed using statistical techniques. Gable (1994) states that by studying a representative sample, the surveys are important in discovering relationships that are common across the organizations and provide generalizable statements about the object of the study. A key feature of surveys is that it does not manipulate a natural event. Instead, surveys seek to gather data on workers behavior, thoughts and/or emotions (Arnold et al., 2004).

A survey may ask employees about their attitudes towards the organization or their opinion regarding a newly introduced recruitment method. Surveys may be aimed at ascertaining the frequency of occurrence of a certain event or to study the relationships, if any, of various variables. I/O principles can be applied in today organization to solve a number of worker-related problems. Mullins (1998) conducted a morale survey for a company that was experiencing a high turnover rate. The company wanted to root out the high cost of production and training cost the exits were causing. The survey results brought to the fore the underlying problem leading the management to undertake corrective measure. The turnover rate was reduced by 65% in the first year and workers morale recorded a 72% increase.

Surveys may be conducted by mail, personal interviews, phone, fax, email, internet, or magazines (Aamodt, 2010). The method chosen may depend on factors such as sample size, need for representative sample, available time for the study, and budget (Aamodt, 2010). The questionnaire may be used to collect information such as sex, education level, job status, supervision, experience, wage levels as well as working conditions. Apart from questionnaires surveys may entails collection of archival data on the subjects or by interview. Interviews are common in market research. A good survey should meet validity and randomness for credibility. The upside of surveys is that it can be used directly with the target respondents and is easy to conduct. However, due to its total lack of variables manipulation it is unable to establish cause and effect relationship of the subject of study. In addition, some variables may not be measureable through survey.

In an I/O setting it is common for researcher to employ a mix of survey and experimental design approach. Experimental methods are used to augment survey methods which are traditionally regarded as descriptive in nature. Experimental surveys are very useful in applied research. An example may be a re-make of a production line machinery e. g a conveyor belt in the laboratory to assess human monitoring on it. The participant may be asked about the task satisfaction or gauged by his performance. Other physiological measures such as heart rate may also be taken during the study. Experimental research approaches can generate reliable outcomes because, unlike surveys, they can be used to infer cause-and-effect relationships. Basically, experimental research involves the manipulation of one or more variables coupled with the measurement of the other. A simple systematic approach for this methodology may involve measuring the object of interest, introduction of a variable of interest and finally measuring the object of interest.

However, a real-life procedure may involve additional experimental design techniques such as the introduction of control groups, matched samples and randomization. Experimental approaches can be cost effective because the researcher can utilize already existing data. Experimental derivations such as conjoint measurement used in market analysis and choice experiments for valuation of non-market products are some of the important approaches used in this field. The factorial survey method of social sciences is especially useful for studying beliefs and normative judgment. This has been applied by marketers to study consumer behavior. Experimental research is less common in marketing organization although there is some use of control groups in direct marketing advertising research. Market researchers tend to favor surveys in studying the market to make forecasts and in consumer behavior. Some experiments fall short meeting the key requirements of a true experiment. These experiments are termed quasi-experiment. They are applicable when some variable cannot be manipulated. Quasi experiments can be used to evaluate the results of a new program implemented by an organization (Aamodt, 2010).

References

Aamodt, M. G. (2010). Industrial/Organizational Psychology (6th ed.). Wadsworth: Cengage.

Arnold, J., L.Cooper, C., & Robertson, I.T (2004.). Work Psychology :understanding human behaviour in workplace. Pitman Publishing.

Babchuk, W. A. (2011). Grounded theory as a “family of methods”: A geneological analysis to guide research. US-China Education Review, 383-388.

Bauman, K. E. (1997). Program Evaluated with True Experimental Designs. American Journal of Public Health, 87(4), 666.

Fitzgerald, S. M., Rumrill, P. D., & D.Schenker, J. (2004). Correlational designs in rehabilitation research. J or Vocational Rehabilitation, 20, 143-150.

Gable, G.G. (1994). Integrating Case Study and Survey Research Methods: An Example in Information Systems. European J of Information Systems, 3(2), 112-126.

Goulding, C. (2005). Grounded theory, ethnography and phenomenology. European J of Marketing, 39(3), 294-308.

Lambert, V., Glacken, M., & McCarron, M. (2010). Employing an ethnographic approach:key characteristics. Nurse Researcher, 19(1), 17-23.

Mullins, L. (1998). Web.

Murata, K., & Katayama, H. (2010). A study of construction of a Kaizen case-base and its utilisation: a case of visual management in fabrication and assembly shop-floors. Int.J of Production Research, 48(24), 7265-7287.

SIOP. (n.d.). industrial and organization psychology. Web.

Skinner, C. G., Patel, M. M., Thomas, J. D., & Miller, M. A. (2011, January). Understanding common statistical methods, part I: Descriptive methods, probability, and continous data. Millitary medicine, 176(1), 99.

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