Related Research on International Student or Customer Information
This study started with individual focus input from a limited number of former international students and stakeholders giving open and related feedback on information seeking factors; mirroring grounded research techniques allowing issues to emerge within time and resource constraints (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
This study, through qualitative techniques of literature review, with stakeholder feedback from both students and marketers, was followed by quantitative measurement of data from a modest but relevant sample student population, using descriptive statistics i.e. data tables, informing a construct with analysis, then discussion and recommendations.
Good starting point for qualitative research is ‘grounded theory’, a methodology to allow issues to emerge from focus respondents; this was partially replicated, but in an abbreviated or streamlined version.
Qualitative Research – Grounded Research Theory & Inductive Approach
Qualitative data from interviews or focus respondent feedback can be used for the ‘Inductive Approach’ (to inform survey instrument) exemplified by fluid theoretical framework, identification of relationships in the data for potential hypotheses, then theory emerges from this process. Further, there are various types of approach e.g. summarising meaning or ‘condensation’, categorisation or ‘grouping’ and structuring or ‘ordering’ leading to a narrative, this approach avoids becoming caught in a deductive process of proving theory (Saunders, 2009).
Further, analysis of the emergent qualitative data allows comprehension, integration, pattern recognition, then potential development or testing of theories. Also significant are language terms that emerge from the data, which also appear in existing literature, that are used by participants and relevant industry (Ibid.).
Language analysis is especially important to inform good website design, SM usage, content marketing and SEO keywords and phrases, reflecting the language or communication means that students prefer, use and can find.
Why Mixed Methods & Grounded Research Theory?
The reasons for using mixed methods include ‘triangulation’ to corroborate both facilitation and complementarity through qualitative and quantitative, ‘generality’ assessing importance through quantitative, and ‘aid interpretation’ with qualitative explaining quantitative. This approach can solve a puzzle through analysis i.e. asking students directly versus guessing or assuming the latent factors driving their behaviour when planning a purchase (Saunders, 2009).
Grounded theory emerges from induction through the study of a phenomenon, e.g. study of student information searching preferences to derive a ‘grounded’ marketing and communications strategy or approach. However, qualitative via grounded theory follows a process of systematic data collection and analysis related to a phenomenon so that data collection, analysis and theory relate to each other; it’s not subjective opinion (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
Using mixed methods of data collecting or multi-method approach, adds up to enhanced validity and reliability through ‘triangulation’ (Bell, 2005). Coding can also be done in a selective manner in choosing the core category for which relationships and other categories are viewed (Ibid.). Process or linking up of elements in the research or study emerges as a sequence of events, exemplified by identifying need, information search, analysis and decision; mirrors many cyclical processes including those outside of marketing (Ibid.).
The research process in this case, using grounded theory, allowed flexibility provided evaluation criteria are satisfied, leading onto empirical grounding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). How or where do we start?
Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project. (4th Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.
Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of Qualitative Research – Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park CA: SAGE Publications.