Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Using Sequential Mixed Methods in Enterprise Policy Evaluation: A Pragmatic Design Choice?

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Using Sequential Mixed Methods in Enterprise Policy Evaluation: A Pragmatic Design Choice?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

How, where, when and why Governments intervene at microeconomic level to assist indigenous small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) largely depends on the prevailing political ideology and historical context of the state in question (Breznitz, 2007, 2012; Mason & Brown, 2011). When governments intervene at firm level they attempt, advertently or inadvertently, to pick or make winners - or at least attempt to avoid picking losers. Targeting is seen as a very attractive public policy approach when viewed from the 'market failure', 'additionality' or 'value for money' perspectives (Bennett, 2012). However there is, as yet, no substantive empirical support for this interventionist approach (Bannock, 2005; Davidsson, 2008; Bridge et al. 2009; Bill et al. 2009; Bennett 2014). This Storey (2008) attributes to the reluctance of states to properly evaluate the outputs of their policies. Evaluation must be an integral part of the micro policy conception and implementation process. It is therefore a pre-requisite for 'evidence-based' policy approaches. Indeed OECD (2004) recommends that a COTE framework be adopted in the development of entrepreneurship and SME policy - C (Clarity & coherence - the proposed theory of change for the policy instrument), O (Objectives), T (Measureable targets) and E (rigorous evaluation).

This paper investigates appropriate research approaches for evaluating the role and contribution of micro policy instruments to the subsequent performance of growth-orientated indigenous firms. It then outlines the research methodology and data analysis techniques employed to address the research objective above.

The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 outlines the research strategy adopted in the study. The research design and process is then outlined in Section 3. Section 4 explains the data collection and analysis process and the overall results of the study whilst Section 5 provides a brief conclusion section. Finally Section 6 discusses future research directions for mixed methods research in business and management research.

2. Research strategy

Quantitative approaches can be helpful in establishing what happened in the change process but are less helpful in establishing why or how the state intervention contributed to firm performance. Qualitative approaches can equally be helpful in explaining the why and how by providing rich contextual data. It is argued that quantitative (QUAN) and qualitative (QUAL) approaches can be integrated within one study if the research problem requires methodological triangulation to increase the validity and reliability of the study (Patton, 2002). This can then maximise the 'knowledge yield' of the research study (McCall & Bobko, 1990). This methodologically combined approach has increased in popularity in recent years and is termed 'Mixed methods' research (MMR) (Johnson & Onwvegbozie, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2007; Plano Clark & Creswell, 2011). In sum, Johnson and Turner (2003) define the principles of this approach as follows:

Methods should be mixed in a way that has complementary strengths and non overlapping weaknesses. ... It involves the recognition that all methods have their limitations as well as their strengths. The fundamental principle is followed for at least three reasons: (a) to obtain convergence or corroboration of findings, (b) to eliminate or minimize key plausible alternative explanations for conclusions drawn from the research data, and (c) to elucidate the divergent aspects of a phenomenon. The fundamental principle can be applied to all stages or components of the research process' (Pg. 297).

Saunders (2015) suggests that whilst mixing research methods is not new (just becoming more popular in its use), it is now essential to highlight the relative importance of each selected methodology to the study in addition to justifying the sequencing (concurrent or sequential) of the constituent methodologies. …

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