A Brief Research Methodology
Interviews will be used to gain an understanding of the MSMEs’ contractual behaviour in regard to their domestic market but also and importantly to trading cross border.
As Ely et al (1991) importantly point out:
“Qualitative implies a direct concern with experience as it is ‘lived’; or ‘felt’; or ‘undergone’; ... Qualitative research, then, has the aim of understanding experience as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it.”
Who will be sampled?
a. MSMEs will be interviewed. MSMEs will be self-selecting, ie a general call will be made through the appropriate channels such as Chamber of Commerce and using publicly available information.
b. A small number of large companies from each sector will be included to allow for comparison (ie are the issues generic (ie cultural).
c. Interviews with lawyers/law firms to ascertain whether there is awareness of the problem
d. Invite Government officials and the legal profession to a workshop to familiarize them with the issues and discuss.
e. The answers to interview questions will be collated and analysed.
Qualitative research can be defined as a research method where:
Aims and objectives are directed at providing an in-depth and interpreted understanding of the social world of research participants by learning about the sense they make of their social and material circumstances, their experiences, perspectives and histories.
The use of non-standardised, adaptable methods of data generation are sensitive to the social context of the study and can be adapted for each participant or case to allow the exploration of emergent issues.
Data are detailed, rich, and complex.
Analysis retains complexity and nuance and respects the uniqueness of each participant or case as well as recurrent, cross-cutting themes.
Openness to emergent categories and theories at the analysis and interpretation stage.
Outputs include detailed descriptions of the phenomena being researched, grounded in the perspectives and accounts of participants.
Based on the data obtained through the focus groups and interviews a survey will be developed and distributed.
Critical Assessment of Research Method
Quantitative surveys are widely believed to yield more objective, valid and reliable research results. Their typical reliance on larger, more representative, samples is also thought to produce more generalizable results, with better predictive value. They, however, suffer from increasingly low response rates and can be susceptible to measurement errors and use of „questionable‟ key informants. Another often cited weakness is that they offer limited scope for longitudinal research.
Qualitative case studies are attributed with generating rich, in-depth and quality data. They have capacity to go beyond the investigated cases to capture new realities, new ideas and theoretical insights on the research question(s). Other key strengths of qualitative case studies include their greater suitability for longitudinal studies and for research contexts where the relevant population is not large enough to allow statistical generalization. Qualitative case studies, however, are widely considered less objective than quantitative approaches, and their typically small sample size exposes them to charges of limited representativeness and generalizability. The use of a mixed method, as envisaged in this research, reflects an attempt to draw on the aforementioned strengths of quantitative and qualitative approaches, whilst also minimizing their weaknesses.
How many MSMEs should be sampled? New Zealand as an example.
In statistics it is generally found that there is a relationship between the numbers sampled and the confidence in the result. Larger sample sizes generally lead to increased precision and estimating what one wants to know.
To know the proportion of MSMEs who understand international disputes settlement provisions one would generally be more confident in sampling 100 firms rather than 50. One needs to be careful here since confounding factors introduce systematic errors or data which is strongly dependent on other factors cause problems. It can mean that it does not matter what sample size one has: one will have the wrong answer.
Leaving these problems aside, there is no right or wrong sample size number it just depends on how confident one wants to be/or has to be of the result and what resources one has. To understand the results from any given number of focus groups or a survey one needs to understand the relationship between the uncertainty of obtaining an answer from the focus group/surveyed population that is the same as the actual population i.e. how confident is one that the group being surveyed accurately reflects the population view.
To help understand this requires a confidence interval which tells the amount of uncertainty one has that the surveyed population reflects the actual population. The graph below illustrates this for all 500,000 businesses in New Zealand. In the jargon an asymptote relationship exists. Note that as one goes down the curve the confidence interval drops by smaller and smaller increments but one requires a larger and larger sample size e.g. to have a 10% confidence interval requires 119 firms. A 1% confidence interval requires 9,419 firms.
If one chooses a sample size of 50, the confidence interval will be plus or minus 14%. See the table below for the relationship between confidence interval and sample size.
In a survey one will need to factor in response rates.
To get a comprehensive picture in regard to the contractual framework most beneficial to MSMEs regional differences have to be assessed as well as different sectors in which MSMEs operate. That will allow an assessment whether it might be, for example, as a first step, more beneficial to provide regionally tailored solutions. Therefore, research will take place in:
sophisticated economies, such as UK, Germany, Spain;
smaller Western economies, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, New Zealand
BRICS [in progress]
small developing states already organized to a certain extent for trade purposes [in progress]
Gulf states [in progress]
developing economies [in progress]