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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Volume 8 (2005) of Qualitative Market Research – An International Journal will feature two normal issues and two special issues. The first issue, Volume 8, Number 1 is a normal issue with a collection of five papers highlighting particular research methods supported by conceptual statements. The first of the special issues, both guest edited from British universities, deals with “New paths to thick descriptions” concentrating on innovations on data collection and interpretation. This is guest edited by Professor Richard Elliott (University of Warwick) and Dr Avi Shankar (University of Exeter). The next special issue focuses on “Ethics in marketing” by Guest Editors: Dr Charles Dennis and Dr Lisa Harris (both from Brunel University).
A new year in the life of the Journal encourages me in making certain observations. The subject of league tables is of relevance to academics.
There are certain academics and academic departments in universities that bring out league tables each year listing journal publications, which inadvertently tend to sway public opinion by leading readers to form opinions about what is a good or poor performing journal. In the UK it has contributed to, what in my opinion, is a sad state of affairs that belies the fact that there are many good journals in their respective fields, including new ones, that are performing a useful purpose in showcasing good quality work and which do not get opportunities to reflect this in some of the me-too league tables previously produced. The difficulty for British and European journals is the continued perception of top American journals dominating the field, particularly in Marketing and Marketing-related fields. In the UK the Government’s Research Assessment Exercise for 2007/2008 encourages this trend as faculties seek to raise perceived quality in their academic submissions to journals. At stake is the distribution of public funds by the Government’s higher education bodies selectively to institutions on the basis of research quality and outputs.
However, there are some publications that have usefully gone to actual statistics to make objective statements. One such publication, “Journal rankings in business and management and the 2001 research assessment exercise in the UK” (2004) by J. Geary, L. Marriott and M. Rowlinson (British Journal of Management, Vol 15, pp. 95-141) is a case in point with a long list of journals featuring in its appendix. Qualitative Market Research – An International Journal is featured in this list too on page 138. Given that the journal had its third year of publication and was listed alongside some journals that had been in existence for 15 years and more, QMRIJ has done particularly well judging from the mean, medium and mode rankings. It intends to do better for the next RAE Assessment exercise and the Editorial Board is invited to contribute by way of publishing their papers in QMRIJ and spread of word-of-mouth to others about the quality of the journal.
Returning to the papers in this normal issue I would like to go further back to Volume 7, Number 3, 2004. This was the special issue of “Qualitative research at the marketing/entrepreneurship interface” by Professor David Crick. Professor Crick has been instrumental in arranging the publication of the paper by Rudolf Sinkovics, Elfriede Penz and Pervez Ghauri in an issue of this Journal, for which he has the Editor’s thanks. The joint paper from Manchester University, UK and Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Austria by Sinkovics, Penz and Ghauri for this normal issue, certainly sheds new light, not just for the practitioner, but also for the academic. As the authors pointed out, conventional wisdom in using linear and quantitative methods are not effective in capturing non-uniformed and fragmented global behaviour patterns of small firms. The authors included a discussion of the nature of qualitative research, the issue of when to choose qualitative over quantitative methods given the particular research and the procedure for textual analysis. On the whole, this paper works very well because it has both a strong conceptual purpose and practicalities in application. It deals with particular issues for international qualitative research and the use of textual data with computer software, in this case, N*Vivio. There are simply not enough published academic papers which showcase this combination. While my review of a collection of seven practitioner books (see the Book Reviews Section in the second last paragraph) showed good quality in the authors’ writings on the subject of “Qualitative market research” there is overly too much reliance on a few published papers, on which to draw significant conclusions about the techniques and applications of qualitative software. So this paper about the textual data analysis with its application for international marketing research makes an up-to-date and enlightening contribution to this field.
Nicole Coviello from Auckland University in New Zealand carries on the research methods and software approaches in the second paper. Her choice of words, about the use of “bifocal lens to the analytic process” is perhaps unusual. The context is the examination of network dynamics. As a firm moves through its lifecycle stages, network boundaries and horizons expand leading to the increased complexities of particular networks. One would expect this to be a natural process. However, the paper gives indications of how useful some of these networks can be in identifying relationships, such as those lending credence or legitimacy for business start-ups and their investments by financial backers. By combining UCINET6, a software package for social network analysis with classical qualitative approaches such as the content analysis of case data, the author is allowing for the scrutiny of a range of dimensions involving network structures, their interactions with each other and the relationships between individual networks. The interface between networks and the use of software is relevant for strategy and marketing as well as researchers and practitioners concerned with studying the life cycle stages of firms and the effects of network dynamics. Future research for these would broaden knowledge further via the mapping of network contraction, consolidation and expansion.
Case studies, as a popular form of qualitative research, provide opportunities for in-depth analysis and for the third paper, also from New Zealand. This is extended into the building and evaluation of web metrics on the internet. Most internet studies in marketing research tend towards consumer studies, so it is refreshing to have a behind-the-scenes look at the design, practice and evaluation of web metrics aimed at uncovering good practices and solutions for managers. Birgit Weischedel, Sheelagh Matear and Kenneth Deans from the University of Otago have evaluated the literature and employed an in-depth case study from the USA to illustrate some of the best practices there to guide their study with New Zealand companies. Originally, coming up against the difficulty of identifying companies for the sample given lower than expected web metrics’ practices that were immediately apparent the authors turned to consulting firms to identify those for the sample that were active within the web analytics arena. Having overcome these limitations the authors carried out exploratory interviews with the companies in their sample to demonstrate how web metrics could be used to inform about their performances online and the effects for B2B and B2C businesses. The analysis of consumer behaviour is far more understated and could have been dealt with more explicitly given the context of best practices. The paper works though, by its analysis, handling of validity and reliability issues in qualitative research, and uncovering of outcomes with regard to managerial decision-making.
Qualitative research is less endowed with contexts from the world of R&D and engineering. Within these contexts a single qualitative and longitudinal case study is applied in the fourth paper. This contribution by Maria Anne Skaates from theÅrhus School of Business in Denmark and Veikko Seppänen from the University of Oulu in Finland focuses the authors on the generation of knowledge about current and future customer needs through interactions with customers and other key actors. Organizational resources and capabilities with regard to the effects on relationships with customers and vice versa are shown. Qualitative research, in my opinion, does not lend itself easily to the setting and testing of hypotheses. However, if one thinks of hypothesis testing in terms of propositions and assessments as worded and easily understood within the non-quantitative field, then this paper works. It works by identifying three key interrelated management issues from the literature, those of suppliers’ involvement with customers in developing business relationships, level of inter-organizational resources required and balancing of capability management. The ensuing capabilities developed by companies allow a wider appreciation of applications to solutions for potential customers to ensure the greatest extent of general market orientation. The findings showed that customer interactions were less important in acquiring resources and capabilities concerning technologies and techniques. Knowledge-intensive firms exhibiting a strong level of customer interaction could, therefore, balance their customer relationship portfolio across time with regard to four customer types: desired levels and balance of mutuality; particularity; mutual relationship capability for the shorter term; and more generic capability and general market orientation in the longer-term.
To increase applicability more qualitative research studies are needed in business and marketing fields aimed at offering in-depth examination of specific research activities. The fifth paper by Ian Allam from the State University of New York is about the conduct of fieldwork and data collection in qualitative marketing research concerning the efficiency of idea generation and overall new product development efforts. While the work is limited by its sample size, the paper’s contribution lies in its examination of issues central to operating within the contexts of fieldwork involving multiple respondents and data triangulation. The objective of the research is the proposed systematic and more rigorous process of data collection and fieldwork in qualitative research using four empirical studies of customer interactions in new product development (NPD), as examples. A preliminary process of conducting fieldwork was first developed from the extant literature. This preliminary framework was applied in the first study and subsequently revised twice in the second and third study by incorporating necessary changes and additions. Finally, the framework was tested and further refined in the fourth study. Data gathering for the four studies had the purpose of developing findings to generate a theory about idiographic research, such as field interviews that could be carried out systematically. The findings provided a basis for proposing a structured framework for data collection, where the interactions of product managers with their customers and other partners repeatedly and throughout the NPD processes, are catered for. The author has argued that such a framework allows for a more rigorous iterative data collection process from multiple respondents and from multiple sources.
This issue finishes with a Book reviews section featuring my review of a collection of seven practitioner books and the Practitioner perspectives section shows Andy Barker’s discussion of “Bricolage revisited”. I end with thanks to reviewers on the Editorial Board and the authors whose contributions have featured in this issue.
Len Tiu Wright email@example.com