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7.4. The Research Process
The purpose of the research is to collect data (and sometimes information) and process it into usable information that can be used to make management decisions. The first stage in any research process is to define the problem and set objectives. After setting the objectives, the process of collecting the data can begin. Data can be collected from either primary sources or secondary sources. Normally it is sensible to begin the research process by looking at secondary sources. The reasons for this are as follows:
- It is always cheaper.
- It is always quicker.
- Sometimes all the necessary information for making the decision has already been published and is available.
- Even when the published information is incomplete, the researchers will only have to fill in the gaps with primary research rather than gather all the information first-hand.
Secondary research will not necessarily tell the researchers everything they need to know. For example, if the company is planning to launch a new solarpowered personal FM radio set, it is unlikely that anyone will have carried out research specifically into solar-powered FM radio sets. There will probably be research on personal stereos, on radio ownership, on environment-friendly consumers and on solar power, so all these sources should be examined first. This will, at the very least, help with the design of the primary research.
The other main drawbacks with secondary research are that it is often out of date, and that it can be hard for the researcher to be confident of its accuracy, since it is often published without giving details of the methods used in its collection.
Researchers therefore need to exercise some caution, but that certainly does not mean that secondary sources should be ignored. Having completed the search for secondary data, it is possible to design the primary research. This will involve deciding: (a) what gaps there are, in terms of the objectives and what is known from the secondary sources; (b) who we need to approach to get the information; and (c) the methods to be used. Deciding what we need to find out from the primary research means comparing what the secondary research says with the objectives that were originally set. Where there is information lacking, the researchers need to decide how to find it out, and who would have the information.
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