Some thoughts on Research Methodology
Before responding to the first comment I’ve received, I wanted to tell you a little more about my Web 2.0 strategy “research seminar”. I have the most fun leading graduate PhD level research seminars so that’s the level of conversation we’ll be targeting. Not to worry if you haven’t taken graduate research seminars before---the biggest difference you’ll see is that is that we’ll be very systematic about our Web 2.0 strategy research questions, methodology, analysis and thought-experiments because we won’t be covering textbook material where there’s one right answer. Instead, the goal is for you to become an active contributor and expert researcher/analyst in developing new questions and doing your own observations, analysis and testing to validate and explain what’s going on—in your workplace, digital world and elsewhere.
First, be sure to start a research notebook if you’re following this online seminar. Even better, log your daily entries and your first tries at the exercises and tables in pen. This will keep you honest about your current assumptions about how things work and provide a record of how your thinking and perspective about Web 2.0 strategy is evolving.
Second, much of what we’ll be doing is practicing to “hear” and sense useful and “tacit” knowledge as well as see it. Much of qualitative and exploratory research is being able to take observations, interviews, quotes, articles written for a different purpose and “digest”, interpret, characterize and systematize this contextual information and data (in research lingo we call this “operationalize”) into useable and generalizable knowledge—variables, dimensions of interest, charts, tables, graphs and models.
Third, lots of people are confused about “qualitative” and “quantitative” research methods, thinking that the first is about words and description and the second is about numbers and data and therefore “better” than the first. Baloney. If this were true, history, sociology and anthropology wouldn’t be as “good” as economics and physics. Instead, “qualitative”, “grounded theory”, exploratory and “case-based” research methods are absolutely required for studying systems that have complex interactions and interdependencies, non-linear or stochastic functions and evolve over time. Linear regressions and large data sets don’t provide much knowledge when you cannot identify what makes a sample homogeneous or heterogeneous, variables are not independent and the thresholds and boundaries of the set are not known.
Fourth, we’ll get a lot of practice in formulating Web 2.0 strategy “research questions” that are relatively easy to generate testable “hypotheses” about.