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Analysing textual data ininternational marketing research
Rudolf R. SinkovicsThe University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Elfriede PenzWirtschaftsuniversitat Wien, Vienna, Austria, and
Pervez N. GhauriThe University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Purpose To provide guidance for the formalised analysis of qualitative data and observations, toraise awareness about systematic analysis and illustrate promising avenues for the application ofqualitative methodologies in international marketing research.
Design/methodology/approach Conceptually, the nature of qualitative research, globalisationand its implications for the research landscape, text-data as a source for international research andequivalence issues in international qualitative research are discussed. The methodology sectionapplies these concepts and analysis challenges to a real-world example using N*Vivo software.
Findings A 14-step analytic design is developed, introducing procedures of data analysis andinterpretation which help to formalise qualitative research of textual data.
Research limitations/implications The use of software programs (e.g. N*Vivo) helps tosubstantiate the analysis and interpretation process of textual data.
Practical implications Step-by-step guidance on performing qualitative analysis of textual dataand documenting findings.
Originality/value The paper is valuable for researchers and practitioners looking for guidance inanalysing and interpreting textual data from interviews. Specific support is given for N*Vivo softwareand its application.
Keywords Computer software, Qualitative research, International marketing, Knowledge management
Paper type Technical paper
IntroductionConstantly changing business environments in the present age of globalisation arecreating new challenges for researchers as well as companies. As a result, establishedmethodologies have to be re-evaluated in view of newer and emerging research optionsand conditions. We witness technological innovations which revolutionise the way wedeal and interact with geographically dispersed organisations and consumers (Craigand Douglas, 2001). Researchers are experiencing methodological and conceptualdifficulties when dealing with inter- or cross-national research. The application ofestablished methodologies and practices cannot always be applied successfully in thechanging international research settings (McDonald, 1985).
The selection of appropriate research strategies in international marketing researchis usually determined by the level of existing information and knowledge in the field(Churchill, 1995). The major portion of the international business and marketingliterature is geared towards precise problems, well-defined in scale and scope, whichcan be easily investigated with rigorous scientific methods. In many situations
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Qualitative Market Research:An International Journal
Vol. 8 No. 1, 2005pp. 9-38
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited1352-2752
however, the available expertise is very limited and little prior research has beencarried out that points to the underlying problems and ambiguities. In internationalmarketing research and particularly research at the marketing and entrepreneurshipinterface, the use of open, creative and flexible research designs is required. A creativeorientation in the research process will help to grasp the non-linear, sometimes chaotic,development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This will also allowcapturing multi-dimensional phenomena in the course of data collection and analysis.Young et al. (2003) highlight this issue while discussing international entrepreneurshipand the application of theories developed in the field of international business.Johanson and Vahlne (2003) present an experiential learning-commitment mechanismfocusing on business network relationships in this context. Generally, this will supportthe provision of a much broader picture on issues of analysis. Many scholars aresuggesting that the use of exploratory research and qualitative methodologies in thesecontexts is more suitable (Ghauri and Grnhaug, 2002). Some extend this view byarguing that qualitative methodologies can help to find meaning behind thenumbers, particularly when many data involves narrow details that blur a clear andholistic view of the context (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998; Ruyter and Scholl, 1998).
Comparative empirical research methodology has been a subject for discussion formore than 30 years (Cavusgil and Das, 1997; Knight et al., 2003; Sekaran, 1983). Asignificant amount of effort has been devoted to address issues such as researchdesign, sampling, instrumentation, data collection and analysis, reliability andvalidity, and general application of findings (Harris, 2000; Nasif et al., 1991;Padmanabhan and Cho, 1995; Parameswaran and Yaprak, 1987; Samiee and Jeong,1994). Coviello and Jones (2004) reviewed the field of international entrepreneurshipand concluded that there is a need for dynamic research design that integratespositivist with interpretivist methodologies. In spite of this, a debate on methodologicalconsiderations is in qualitative research and the analysis of textual data is scarce.
Problem and purposeMuch has been written about the importance of interpreting qualitative data and theliterature offers a rich repertoire of methods of qualitative inquiry (Bickman and Rog,1997; Denzin and Lincoln, 1994). However, two of the most important factorsconcerning the slow adoption of qualitative research methodologies for internationalresearch have been the lack of replicability and the painstaking efforts required tocoordinate international research teams. Nevertheless, qualitative data, and textualdata in particular, are an attractive nuisance (Miles, 1979) since they offer real andfull insights into phenomena. In view of this argument and the objective to movemarketing research further away from exclusively quantitative comparative work, weadvocate formalised qualitative procedures. Formalised procedures of gathering,analysing and interpreting qualitative data are also particularly important incollaborative international work involving multiple researchers.
This paper is concerned with ways in which qualitative methodologies can beexplored in international marketing and entrepreneurship research. This issue isparticularly relevant to the emergence of computer assisted qualitative data analysissoftware (CAQDAS) which helps both researchers and marketing practitioners tofollow formalised procedures and make their investigations more solid and rigorous(Crawford et al., 2000; Marshall, 2001).
Ongoing academic debate is either of a conceptual nature looking intosoftware-related issues or applying existing qualitative methodologies in particularcontexts. Hence, we shall detail issues related to qualitative data analysis in generaland shed some light on the formalised analysis of textual data which is most widelyused in marketing research. We shall develop arguments for the notion that qualitativeresearch is on the rise, discuss certain methodological issues in the context ofinternational qualitative research and introduce an example to show how softwaresuch as N*Vivo can be used for problems with international scope. The illustrativeexample which is used in this paper is based on a project on knowledge managementin a multinational SME context. Company managers from internationalSME-consultancies were involved in in-depth interviews and shared their views onpractices and procedures of knowledge sharing and knowledge management.Interview data generated from three different countries in three different languageswas compiled, coded and analysed following a formalised approach.
Conceptual backgroundThe nature of qualitative researchQualitative research involves the use of unstructured exploratory techniques such asgroup discussions and in-depth interviews. In contrast to quantitative techniques it ismore difficult to precisely capture phenomena with qualitative research. As a result,qualitative research design has often been treated as an oxymoron (Maxwell, 1997,p. 75). However, if we want to have a holistic perspective and want to obtainin-depth-knowledge about certain objects, qualitative approach is the mostappropriate:
Qualitative data are attractive [. . .] they are rich, full, earthy, holistic, real and their facevalidity seems unimpeachable [. . .] (Miles, 1979, p. 590).
The choice of qualitative methods over quantitative methods can be seen as a functionof a particular research purpose. According to Maxwell (1997) there are five researchpurposes for which qualitative studies are especially useful:
(1) Understanding the meaning of events, activities, situations and actions ofpeople observed.
(2) Understanding the particular context within which the participants act and theinfluence which this context has on their actions.
(3) Identifying unanticipated phenomena and influences and generating new,grounded theories about the latter (Strauss and Corbin, 1998a). This view is instark contrast to the rather passive acceptance that all great theories had beendiscovered and that the role of research lay in testing these through quantitativescientific procedures (Charmaz, 1988).
(4) Understanding the processes by which events and actions take place. Theability to get insights about the processes that lead to outcomes is in many casessuperior to experimental and survey research that mostly capture outcomesonly and ar