Systematic Review in the Fields of Business and Management

Introduction

Different types and methods of research can be used to effectively examine a problem or test a hypothesis. To complete this task, scholarly resources, such as academic articles and textbooks that focus on research methods, were examined. Information from some trustworthy online resources was synthesised in the main body of this essay as well. Part 1 defines a systematic literature review and explains the process of choosing a question and finding the necessary literature. In Part 2, different types of qualitative methods are compared and contrasted. Part 3 is an overview of mixed methods, including triangulation, as well as the approaches to applying this research design in the fields of business and management. This paper aims to analyse systematic reviews, qualitative research, and mixed-method studies.

Part 1

A systematic review of academic literature is a method, which allows one to synthesise results from multiple studies and make conclusions based on this evidence. Notably, systematic reviews are “able to summarise the existing empirical research on a topic” (What is a systematic review?, no date, para. 5). In the context of business and management, systematic reviews can be viewed as a method for collecting qualitative data from multiple sources to locate evidence from different sources, thus supporting the initial hypothesis of the author. Figure 1 compares and contrasts the differences between systematic and traditional reviews.

Systematic and traditional reviews
Figure 1. Systematic and traditional reviews (About systematic reviews, no date).

A systematic review can be defined as a deliberate examination of a large number of academic resources on the identified theme. According to Munn et al. (2018, p. 143), first systematics reviews began to be published in the 1970s and 1980s, when major electronic libraries collecting scholarly research emerged, providing researchers with an opportunity to assess data from multiple sources. Therefore, another defining characteristic of this research method is the access and availability of a large number of resources dedicated to an examined topic.

Therefore, when comparing systematic reviews to other methods of collecting and reviewing evidence, one can argue that this approach presents a better assessment of a problem and possible solutions, because it uses a large number of sources as a basis. By cross-checking the outcomes, the researchers are able to locate a wide variety of other studies and evidence pertaining to a particular problem.

The process of a systematic literature review is complex and requires one to narrow the topic of research, to obtain significant results. The overall process of planing a systematics review must be transparent and outlined in the publication that describes the findings, to ensure an ability to audit the results (About systematic reviews, no date). Therefore, the first step of the process is the definition of the topic that will be studied by the researchers, which must be narrowed to focus on one issue. Next, in order to find literature that can be used in the review, a set of keywords must be developed.

The adequate and accurate use of keywords is essential for systematic reviews because it affects the type of literature that a researcher will be able to find, its quality and scope (Gray, 2016). It is useful to experiment with the kinds of keywords and word combinations to determine what type of studies can be found using these requests. Additionally, the researcher must establish the databases that will be used for the review, in most cases, one can find online libraries dedicated to collecting journal articles within one field.

In general, to carry out a systematic review, a researcher must determine the topic, the inclusion and exclusion criteria, such as a number of participants, time frame, variables tested, results, or other, and collect studies that can be used in further analysis. The inclusion criteria can be defined as a set of characteristics, based on which an investigation will be included in the review (Gray, 2016). This is important because the current amount of information and research is vast, especially when considering a popular topic or theme. By using the defined keywords and the inclusion or exclusion criteria, the researcher can begin the process of looking through articles, reading abstracts and saving the ones that fit the specified criteria.

As a result of reviewing all articles that one can find on the topic, a small number of sources will be left, which provides the most relevant and up-to-date data. Here, the process of synthesising and analysing the information begins. The researcher makes conclusions based on the evidence and writes a paper explaining them. Hence, it is vital to formulate a research question precisely and outline key inclusion characteristics for a successful systematics review and to ensure that the researchers will not be overwhelmed by data. The quality of the systematic review depends on the ability to define a narrow topic and find studies that eliminate the possibility of bias, for precise analysis.

In general, systematic literature reviews is an excellent approach to collecting and synthesising evidence from a variety of sources. As such, these reviews are more precise and trustworthy, when compared to standard literature reviews, because each study included in the analysis must focus on the same topic and issue. In other types of literature reviews, a researcher can use different sources exploring different themes relating to the matter and synthesise it, however, no cross-checking the data is present.

Part 2

Qualitative research, in contrast to quantitative methods, uses evidence to make a judgment regarding a phenomenon or tested hypothesis. As such, this approach allows researchers to use techniques such as unstructured interviews or open-ended survey questions, where participants are free to express their opinion or experience. According to Creswell, the main benefit of this approach is a large number of data collection methods, available to a researcher (cited in Types of qualitative research, no date).

While quantitative methods allow collecting numerical data, which is the basis for data-driven decisions and can support the author’s conclusions by presenting a correlation between the tested variables, qualitative research allows one to understand a problem and examine it in depth (Aspers, and Corte, 2019). Streefkerk (2019, para. 1) explains that qualitative research “deals with words and meanings.” Hence, the main characteristic of his research is that it focuses on collecting information using words, and the man aim is to gain an in-depth understanding of the examined problem. It is an ideal method to understand the experience of people, or in case of business and management, the expertise of companies and their employees.

There are several qualitative research types, and Figure 1 demonstrates a variety of approaches to collecting data using qualitative methods, which will be explained further. Croswell defines four main criteria to qualitative design – interviews, observations, and public or private documents examination, and questionnaire(cited in Types of qualitative research, no date). Firstly, the open-ended interviews are usually a verbal interaction between a researcher and a subject.

While the questions can be written beforehand, it is possible for the interviewer to ask additional questions and for a participant to elaborate on a specific topic (Types of qualitative research, no date). Next, observations involve a researcher looking at different behaviours of people and finding relevant patterns that can help answer the research’s question. This approach is applicable to business and management if researchers have access to a company or another examined entity. As a result, they can present an unbiased opinion regarding an issue, as opposed to interviews or questionnaires.

Qualitative methods data collection types
Figure 2. Qualitative methods data collection types (15 reasons to choose quantitative over qualitative research, 2020).

Thirdly, document review is an approach where either publicly available or private information is examined by the researchers to find relevant information about a specific phenomenon. In business and management, a variety of company records and other documents can be reviewed by researchers, such as company history, records, financial statements, and others. Finally, questionnaires are several structured questions distributed to subjects, usually in a written or electronic form, which contains a set of open-ended questions.

Similarly to interviews, this approach is helpful in identifying key themes, examining experiences and opinions. However, this approach is more structures and implies a distribution of written forms instead of verbal communication. Streefkerk (2019) also suggest that literature reviews can also be considered a qualitative method because it allows for an examination of various opinions from different sources.

In contrast, Ibrahim (2016) argues that ethnography, narrative phenological, grounded theory and case study are the main types of qualitative methods, while the ones outlined by Croswell are defined by the author as data collection methods.

In the context of business and management research, all of the four methods are applicable, since they allow examining a business issue. For example, document review can allow one to gain a comprehension of the financial state of a business. Interviews can be used to collect information about the attitudes of personnel towards their work. According to Streefkerk (2019), focus groups are another type of qualitative research, which implies a discussion between several individuals. A focus group can be more comprehensive when compared to standard interviews because, in it, people can engage in discussion and build on each other ideas.

Using Ibrahim’s (2016) approach, one can argue that case studies are the primary method that can be used in business and management research. Case studies allow documenting experience of a company or other entity, sometimes in the form of a narrative, to describe the key lessons and issues one can comprehend using the example of the studied business. The main objective of a case study is to focus on a single event and describe it as accurately as possible (Lee and Saunders, 2017).

This type of research is applicable in case when complex problems are examined because it allows researchers to obtain and present a variety of information. In this method, both all data collection approaches, such as interviews with management and employees, review of relevant documents and direct observations, are applicable.

Part 3

Mixed method studies use both the qualitative and quantitative methods, allowing one to leverage the strengths of both. When comparing and contrast different types of mixed methods, one can conclude that the main difference is the sequence of collecting different types of data and analysing them, which will be reviewed in-depth in the next sections. Multimethodology is beneficial for research because it allows for a more cohesive examination of evidence since one can use quantitative data and substantiate it with a qualitative one.

It is easier to develop an explanation for a particular phenomenon using mixed methodology. Shorten and Smith (2017) present the following description for this approach – “‘mixed-methods is a research approach whereby researchers collect and analyse both quantitative and qualitative data within the same study” (p. 74). As such, the primary strategy with mixed methods is data linkage or the process of combining the qualitative and quantitative research methods and data collection procedures. Figure 3 presents an example of a mixed-method study, in which data collection began with a qualitative assessment, followed by a quantitative evaluation. The results were analysed after their collection sequentially, and in the final stage, both types of information were merged to create a cohesive interpretation of outcomes.

An example of a mixed-method design
Figure 3. An example of a mixed-method design (cited in Rucker, 2018).

One example of the mixed methodology is triangulation, which implies a simultaneous use of qualitative and quantitative techniques. Unlike other strategies used in the mixed methodology, this approach aims to compare data collected at the same time (Gray, 2016). Integration of results is an essential element, as it allows to leverage the actual benefits of mixed methods, and it can occur at any stage of research – including data collection and analysis.

In triangulation design, both the qualitative and quantitative methods have the same strength and meaning for the outcomes of the study. In contrast with other methods, for example, with embedded design, there is a distinction between a primary and secondary data collection method.

Triangulation design is often used in social sciences. It is believed that this methodology helps to overcome the intrinsic bias that can occur even in systematic reviews, for instance, a systematic error can affect studies with the same design because the same technique is used in different studies. In business research, one can use triangulation to examine the correlation between employee satisfaction and their salary, or other relevant quantitative metrics, which is one example of applying triangulation. One downside of triangulation is that the research design can become increasingly complex because of the requirement to employ different techniques and data analysis methods (Gray, 2016). On the other hand, this is a one-phase design method, which can make data collection easier.

Next, the embedded design is another mixed-method study approach, or it can be referred to as nested design. In general, the researcher chooses the primary and secondary methodology for collecting data. Next, both quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same stage of the research. While the main focus is one the primary method, which is used to test the research hypothesis, the secondary method helps the researchers address additional questions (Gray, 2016).

The main idea of this approach is that one data set is not enough to provide a full overview of the research issue, and thus a supportive or secondary one is needed. Unlike the triangulation approach, this design can be either one-phase or two-phase, suggesting that it is more flexible (Gray, 2016). For the embedded design, a researcher can focus on company profitability, while simultaneously using quantitative data to examine a relevant phenomenon, such as organisational culture and its perception by the employees.

The explanatory design allows researchers to collect quantitative data and explain it using qualitative methods. As such, this is a two-phase strategy that allows for better comprehension of phenomena. Unlike other methods described above, the qualitative and quantitative data is not collected simultaneously. The researchers first collect quantitative data. In the next stage, they use qualitative methods to build upon the results they initially obtain, thus gaining a more comprehensive overview of a problem they study.

This method can be used when creating case studies, where extensive explanations of events are necessary, which is the main strength of this method compared to others. Finally, the exploratory method is based on the premise that a specific problem has not been examined before, which contrasts it with other methods that focus on already defined issues (Gray, 2016). It is suitable for establishing priorities, such as new approaches to researching social responsibility or consumer preferences in the digital age.

Conclusion

Overall, this paper met the assignment objective by outlining the key features of a systematic literature review, which is an assessment of a variety of studies that focus on the same problem. One has to define an issue and criteria for inclusion and exclusion to carry out a systematic review. There are several types of qualitative studies – such as interviews, questionnaires, or focus groups. Finally, mixed methods allow leveraging the data collection approaches from both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

In this paper, systematic reviews, types of qualitative methods and a comparison of mixed methods are evaluated, including basic terms relating to each and the processes one has to carry out using each framework. Depending on the specifics of the issue, previous studies that examine the same phenomenon and other relevant information, one chooses a research design.

Reference List

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Aspers, P., and Corte, U. (2019) ‘What is qualitative in qualitative research’, Qualitative Sociology, 42, 139–160.

Lee, B. and Saunders, M. (2017) Conducting case study research for business and management students. London, SAGE Publications.

15 reasons to choose quantitative over qualitative research. (2020) Web.

Ibrahim, M. (2016) Types of qualitative research. Web.

Gray, D. (2016) Doing research in the business world. London, SAGE Publications.

Munn, Z., et al. (2018) ‘Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach’, BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18, 143. Web.

Rucker, M. (2018) Mixed methods. Web.

Shorten, A. and Smith, J. (2017) ‘Mixed methods research: expanding the evidence base’, Evidence Based Nursing, 20(3), pp. 74-75.

Streefkerk, R. (2019) Qualitative vs. quantitative research. Web.

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