Book Review: Applied Business Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

Reviewer: Gillian Reid, The University of Auckland

This is an excellent, general purpose text, for people who are new to research in a business context. It is well-structured and easy to read, stepping through the stages of a typical business research project in a clear and logical manner. It suffers a little from the fact that business research has moved on in a couple of quite important areas since its publication, and those gaps definitely need other texts to fill. The language is simple and straight forward, with good explanations of many of the terms and concepts that are difficult for new researchers to grasp. If it is being used as a class text, the regular in-text examples, exercises, and discussion points, can be very helpful for a lecturer wishing to reinforce key research issues likely to be faced by students. It maps well to all traditional approaches to the life cycle of a business research project. The book starts with a section giving a good overall introduction to business research, (dispelling a few myths on the way), and looks at the whole relationship between scientific investigation and the business research process. The explanations given for the types of questions that come up at this early stage are clear, helpful, and pragmatic. It moves on to address the whole design of a research project, an area that I have found has threatened to drown many new researchers, or at least have led them wildly astray if not properly understood and addressed. One criticism here is the very small amount on Case Study research. This is a shame, given that a large amount of applied business research is in a case study setting, examining issues in the researcher’s own business environment. The authors cover this area only as a theoretical consideration of comparisons with similar situations in other organisations, rather than treating the researcher’s organisation as a case in its own right, that does not need particular generalisability to others. Regrettably, also, there is no mention of Action Research as a methodological consideration, which may be a reflection of the fact the book has been around for nearly seven years, and was likely to be written in the late 1990s before Action Research really became a more generally accepted consideration in business research. This is followed by sections on qualitative and quantitative business research, intended to assist understanding of the practicalities of collecting and analysing data. However, it is clear that the authors are more comfortable in a quantitative research environment than a qualitative one. There are only two chapters devoted to qualitative business research covering barely 50 pages, compared with an in-depth and comprehensive six chapters of 160 pages (plus two substantial appendices at the end of the book) on quantitative research. This again is possibly a reflection of the fact that the use of qualitative research in business projects has come a long way since the book’s initial publication back in 2000, but it is too lean to be totally useful on its own. Should the authors be thinking of an update, this would be a good area to revisit and expand. The final section on research reporting and managerial decision-making is very helpful, with a number of examples of business reports that can be used as templates for a variety of research situations.

Aside from the criticisms of qualitative research coverage and lack of consideration of the case and action research, the book has some excellent features. Almost every chapter begins with clear objectives of what the reader should gain from that section, and ends with a good summary, and a variety of follow-up discussion points. A number of chapters are followed by Appendices which provide very useful examples of what has been covered in that chapter. When floundering around the muddy waters of the business research learning process, these are extremely helpful both for new researchers and also for the rest of us who suddenly need to embark on a new project after some lapsed period away from such endeavours. I have used, and recommended, this book as a text for my postgraduate business students, for a number of years. It is still good value, although I feel it is overdue for an update in the areas I have previously highlighted. Given the high quality of the writing and presentation, it would be a shame if we don’t get a new version.