In the framework of the management-research question hierarchy following steps can be developed to solve current dilemma (Cooper & Schindler, 2006):
- Dilemma: use of publication reader service cards has been gradually declining which questioned efficiency of its advertisements’ to provide necessary information.
- Research questions: conducing a research study about efficiency of reader service cards use would be a reasonable action that are available for taking advantage in the situation.
- Investigation questions: in order for a manager to decide about further use of reader service cards, evaluation of all methods should be carried out to get deep insight about their relative effectiveness.
- Management question: in order to obtain necessary information for manager, respondents in the survey should be asked about frequency of use of the reader service cards and other methods, evaluate their importance.
- Management decision: given declining use of reader service cards and higher efficiency of other means of providing information, manager can make decision about phasing out the use of reader service cards.
Considering ethical issues that are relevant to the study, it is worth mentioning following aspects (American Association of Public Opinion Research, 2010). First, respondents of survey are informed in the questionnaire about content and purpose of conducting the study. This implies that they are able to make conscious decisions about participation in the survey. Moreover, respondents are also informed about confidentiality of the study. Even though there is information at the beginning of the questionnaire about how sample was selected, there is no evidence about expected outcomes of the study.
Sample of the survey was built based on the stratified disproportionate random sampling approach. Individuals were randomly selected from six groups of job titles and from seven different industries. Data that was used for the sample construction came from the U.S. Penton database. Original sample included 4,000 observations corresponding to managers, purchasing agents, and engineers. However, actual sample size was smaller due to the fact that only 710 completed questionnaires were returned. Final sample size that was used in the analysis comprised 676 observations, number that was determined by the positive answer to the first question whether respondents were purchase decision makers for the companies. Final sample size is sufficient for securing validity and reliability of research findings. Moreover, this sampling approach is appropriate as a result of the possibility of exhaustively partitioning data into disjoint subgroups ensuring that estimations are accurate.
Research of the provision of information to the advertisements was designed to be carried out in several stages, including pretesting stage of the questionnaire, data collection with the help of the survey, and finally, conduct of interviews. In general, the survey was designed as a combination of quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interviews) approaches. One of the advantages of the research design was implementation of survey questionnaire’s pretesting in the pillow study that allowed revealing pitfalls in the questionnaire and correcting them. At the same time using both qualitative and quantitative tools is another advantage since qualitative method provides the possibility of obtaining information that is not captured with quantitative measures.
Survey has been carried out in two stages. On the first stage, questionnaire for the survey was tested at two pilot studies. At first it was used for telephone survey on a small sample of individuals from the database of domestic subscribers. Another pilot study was in the form of e-mail survey of 300 individuals. Both pilot studies not only provided feedback on the questionnaire about potential pitfalls, but at the same time they allowed obtaining expected response rates to their quantitative data collection with the help of the online survey and conduct of qualitative telephone interviews. Therefore, based on this information appropriate original sample sizes were selected. On the negative side, even after pilot studies, questionnaires contained certain limitations, including lack of details about expected outcomes of the study, better structure of questions, etc.
In order to digitize collected data and make it in the convenient form that can be used in the statistical analysis the data has to be coded appropriately. The most suitable way to code the data would be assigning numerical values to the options of answers in the multiple choice questions. Since there is a possibility of more than one answer to every question, then it would be right to construct number of variables equal to the number of options to questions 1-4 and 7. These variables will contain 2 numeric values, one will correspond to the case when respondent marked this option and another will indicate he didn’t mark this option. Variable corresponding to questions like 5a, 6, and 8-11) will contain different numeric characteristics, each corresponding to the available option. Finally, answers from the open question 5b will be directly digitized to the answer sheet. Hence, the data in this form can be easily analyzed with the help of statistical software.
Given that manager is interested in the efficiency of reader service cards, then research report should set its focus on this issue. The only reported finding of the survey that deals with reader service cards is that 74% of respondents have mailed a reader service card during the last year, implying that a large share of people are using this method. However, in order to provide deeper insight on this issue, there is a need to provide respondents’ evaluation of change in use of reader service cards over the past five years and their expected use of these cards in the next five years. Moreover, based on the findings of the question 5a it would be useful to provide information about the most preferable method of obtaining information, whether reader service cards are preferred by respondents or not. This kind of information would be more useful for the manager since he will be able to see how many people actually prefer reader service cards. Finally, use of the reader service cards can be represented by age groups, gender, and purchase experience.
Even though research has been carefully prepared, still there are several limitations that undermine its findings. For example, one of the limitations is related to the timeframe. Even though respondents were asked to evaluate their use of different methods over the past 5 years, conducting this study on the annual basis would deliver more reasonable findings.
Information that has been drawn as a result of the survey is conclusive about the declining value of reader service cards use. Given higher efficiency rates of other methods of providing information, manager of IndustryWeek can make a decision to switch from reader service cards to more efficient means of providing information.