Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Considerations for Multidisciplinary, Culturally Sensitive, Mixed Methods Research

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Considerations for Multidisciplinary, Culturally Sensitive, Mixed Methods Research

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This research was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of various aspects of a ten-year multi-million dollar executive leadership program, which was designed and delivered in Australia for Chinese oil and gas sector middle and senior managers over a ten-year period. Initially the program had run annually for six months, but after six years it ran twice a year for shorter three-month courses. The program was a non-award but MBA level program that explored aspects of leadership, management and economics within the Chinese oil and gas sector. The participants on the program along with alumni were invited to participate in the research. These participants were asked to comment on four key areas of interest to the researchers including: their opinion of the effectiveness of the program; aspects of social capital support; industry-based human capital; and, their opinions about Chinese energy policy.

During the ten years of the program the Program Managers had provided formative and summative reports on each of the six- or three-month courses. This information along with anecdotal information from the Program Director, also a research team member, provided an excellent starting point for the survey.

The focus of the research, which we want to explore and present here, is related to lessons learnt from undertaking a culturally sensitive mixed methods study with a multidisciplinary team of researchers. First, we present the multidisciplinary team and a review of cultural sensitive research techniques and the issues that arise when undertaking this. The actual mixed methods research design developed and employed is then presented followed by the actual approach and methodological choices we made.

2. Multidisciplinary research team

Our research team consisted of three people: two women, one man. Two of our members are research fellows of the same university; the third member started as an academic of the same university and is now an adjunct staff member. One team member was the Director of the executive education program being studied and thus had access to the contact details, program staff and could readily seek the Board's permission, as well as university ethics permission, for the research. She was also known to the participants, which, in this case, assisted to minimise any perceived intimidation of respondents. One team member is Chinese with strong connections across both Australia and China. One researcher is a mixed method expert and researcher. One researcher is an expert and researcher in facilitation of focus groups. Table 1 summarises the spread of relevant researcher expertise and qualities relating to this paper.

The research team decided to use a mixed methods approach where quantitative data would be collected from the current cohort and all previous cohorts who had returned to China. This would then be followed by a focus group with the current cohort who was, at the time, in Australia undertaking the leadership program. This qualitative data would provide the team with a much richer set of data to compliment the quantitative data. The research team acknowledged the knowledge base and research skill sets of each team member and made explicit decisions to leverage off these knowledge and skills when undertaking the study.

3. Culturally sensitive research techniques

In our research we were conscious of the methods we might use to gather data from many aspects including cultural sensitivity. We were three Australian-based researchers wanting information from Chinese participants. Some of those participants were located in Australia; some had met one or more of the researchers through the executive education program; some had returned to China many years before and had, possibly, only a distance memory of the program, did not know any of the researchers and had not communicated in English for some time. It was with these elements in mind that we tried to ensure our data gathering strategies were culturally sensitive. …

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