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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Doing Research Projects in Marketing Management and Consumer Research
Chris HackleyRoutledgeLondon2003210 pp.ISBN: 0-415-26895-8£16.99
For a first-time interpretive researcher it can be difficult to know where to begin with the great assortment of research methods literature. Many of the available texts focus on abstract theoretical discussions that make the research process appear very daunting to a new researcher. Debate arises concerning the philosophies, strategies, methods and techniques of interpretive research. Confusion occurs over what counts as interpretive research and the differences between interpretive, qualitative, postmodernism and more recently, post postmodernism. Additionally, there is a diverse range of perspectives brought to interpretive research such as phenomenology, hermeneutics and critical theory to name but a few. Boundaries between these different perspectives often seem blurred.
Doing Research Projects in Marketing, Management and Consumer Research is an ideal starting place for new interpretive researchers. This book offers an easy to read and gradual introduction to interpretive research and goes some way to bridging the gap between theory and practice. The author does this by providing many examples from his own research and from his role as a supervisor for undergraduates, MSc, MBA and PhD students. The examples used demonstrate how the theoretical traditions are translated into actual research. To illustrate, an interesting example was a semiotic study on advertising ethics. In this instance, the method of data collection involved the use of focus groups where a selection of ads was used as stimulus material in order to understand how consumers interpreted ads that were considered ethically dubious or controversial. Further examples include a phenomenological study relating to the marketing planning process, and ethnographic investigations on how advertising effectiveness is assessed within advertising agencies and the role of alcohol advertising on the social lives of UK adolescents.
The structure of the book is excellent. Each chapter opens with an outline and chapter objectives and ends with a glossary to help new researchers grasp the vocabulary and jargon of interpretive research. The book is also structured in such a way that it can be read from beginning to end or alternatively, it can be used as a reference book to obtain information about a particular theoretical perspective, for example, semiotics. Consequently, although the main target audience for this book is first-time researchers, it may also be helpful for more experienced academics who need clarification on the different traditions falling within interpretive research.
The initial chapters are successful in offering an introduction to the independent research project. Chapter one introduces the theoretical stance of the book that is drawn from the hermeneutic field of study. This chapter also incorporates a number of practical issues such as skills required to complete academic research, supervisory demands and plagiarism. This combination of theory and practice sets the tone for the reminder of the book.
Chapter two is dedicated to the choice of research topic. This chapter, combined with chapter one, demonstrates the scope and variety of possible research projects within marketing, management and consumer research. Identifying a “gap” in the literature can appear a difficult task for new interpretive researchers. However, these chapters highlight that obtaining a degree of originality may not be as difficult as it originally may seem. Hackley offers reassurance by emphasising that originality does not imply “an entirely new, never-before-thought-of idea” (p. 33).
The theme of chapter three is writing up the research project and introducing the newcomer to the academic style of writing. The positioning of this chapter is interesting. In many research methods books, the process of writing up is not mentioned until the final section. By including this chapter at an early stage in the book, Hackley encourages students not to view writing as separate from the research process but as an issue that needs to be considered from the initial stages of the project. One particularly useful section of this chapter is the discussion on “critical” thinking in relation to the literature review. This is often identified as an area of weakness for new researchers whose writing may be criticised for being overly descriptive and lacking in a critical dimension. The suggested schema of levels of critical thinking should help students improve their literature reviews by encouraging them to move away from uncritical thinking and towards critical engagement and sociological critique.
Chapter four focuses on the range of qualitative data-gathering techniques available including interviewing, focus/discussion groups, naturalistic observation and research diaries. A balanced evaluation of each method is provided with both advantages and difficulties being discussed. A practical stance is adopted with helpful tips and advice, for example, a research interview checklist is included. This chapter also includes a useful clarification on the distinction between “qualitative” and “interpretive”.
It is advantageous that the data-gathering techniques are introduced before further detail is given on the differing theoretical traditions. This is different to the typical approach adopted in interpretive research methods books. For example, Qualitative Market Research by Carson et al. (2001) can be taken as a comparison. In this text, the authors take a different and perhaps more usual approach of providing brief information on some of the research traditions associated with interpretivism in chapter one while discussion of data collection methods does not appear until a later stage. Hackley’s approach may be more effective as it provides the student with a gradual introduction and build-up to the issues of interpretive research rather than throwing readers in at the deep end and immersing them in technical vocabulary that they are not yet equipped to deal with. Hackley includes a general chapter on the major themes and concepts of interpretive research to provide first-time researchers with the background knowledge that is needed as a basis for more complex discussions of the various theoretical traditions. One objective of this chapter is to enable students to better understand the role of the theoretical perspective in framing a research project.
Chapters six to nine each focus on one of the following theoretical perspectives: phenomenology, ethnography, critical research and critical discourse analysis and semiotics. A summary box of each approach is given in the form of themes, assumptions, methods of data gathering and approach to data analysis. Throughout these chapters, the author guides the student to various other sources of reference which could be used to supplement the book if further detail is required on a particular perspective. This is especially relevant for those doing research degrees as opposed to dissertations on undergraduate or taught postgraduate programmes.
Chapter ten includes details of a number of other approaches including literary theory and narrative analysis, feminism and gender studies, postmodernism and poststructuralism.
Although the breath of coverage is good, a number of perspectives are excluded. One omission is grounded theory, an approach often neglected within the field of marketing research despite its considerable potential (Goulding, 1998). However, Hackley justifies the perspectives he has included by suggesting that they are “possibly the most accessible and directly applicable to the needs of marketing, management and consumer researchers” (p. 108).
In conclusion, this is a highly accessible and usable book for new researchers, providing clear guidance for people actively engaging in interpretive research. It is a welcome additional to the research literature as many of the published books on research methods within marketing-related disciplines are general texts that do not focus exclusively on interpretive research. Doing Research Projects in Marketing, Management and Consumer Research provides a comprehensive guide to a variety of qualitative data collection methods and interpretive theoretical traditions. It should definitely be an essential item on the reading list of first-time interpretive researchers. This text alone should provide enough detail for undergraduates and students on taught degree dissertation programmes while those completing research degrees should treat it as a first read which can then be followed by different and more detailed sources.
Kathy HamiltonThe Queen’s University, Belfast
Dr Miriam CatterallBook reviews and research abstracts Editor,The Queen’s University of BelfastE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Carson, D., Gilmore, A., Perry, C. and Gronhaug, K. (2001), Qualitative Marketing Research, Sage, London
Goulding, C. (1998), “Grounded theory: the missing methodology on the interpretivist agenda”, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 50–7