The business research process involves a series of steps that systematically investigate a problem or an opportunity facing the organization. The sequence of
steps involved in the business research process are as follows: problem/opportunity identification and formulation, planning a research design, selecting a research method, selecting the sampling procedure, data collection, evaluating the data and preparing the research report for presentation. The above steps provide a broad outline applicable to any business research project.
However, the number and sequence of activities can vary as per the demand of an individual research project. The process of business research can be primarily divided into three phases—
planning, execution and report preparation. The planning phase begins from problem/opportunity identification and leads to selection of the sampling procedure.
Data collection and evaluation can be described as the execution phase of the business research process, while report preparation can be considered as the last phase. In this chapter, we will discuss each of these phases in detail.
2.1 Steps in the Research Process
The steps in the research process, namely identification and definition of the problem or opportunity, planning the research design, selecting a research method, selecting a sampling procedure, data collection, evaluating the data and finally preparing and presenting the research report.
Each of these steps in the research process is discussed below.
Identifying and Defining the Problem/Opportunity
The initial step in the research process is the identification of the problem or opportunity. As businesses today operate in a highly volatile environment governed by various macro environmental factors, they need to constantly assess their relative position and identify the various problem areas or opportunities they need to work upon in order to sustain themselves competitively in the market. The managers need to analyse the changing dynamics of business and to evolve a strategy to adapt to the changes taking place in the external environment. Whether these are potential problem areas or opportunities, it is very important for the manager to identify them accurately and at the earliest.
Problem identification precedes the problem definition stage. For instance, a company producing cell phone wave protectors (devices that protect the cell phone from harmful radiations) may realize that its new product is not selling, but it may not know the reason for this at the outset. Although it has identified the problem in a broader perspective, it needs to define the problem specifically in terms of what is to be researched.
It is important to define the problem in a precise manner. A well-defined problem gives the researcher a proper direction for carrying out investigation. It also helps in utilizing the resources provided for the research effectively. A researcher can focus his efforts on collecting relevant information, if the problem is defined properly. Some research problems such as conducting a survey on the newspaper reading habits of a given set of the population can be clearly defined. But if a company wants to define a research problem such as declining sales, it needs to explore the research problem further through exploratory research.