As the term suggests, conclusive research is intended to provide useful information for reaching conclusions or making decisions. It is usually quantitative in nature, that is, in the form of numbers that can be quantified and summarized. It is based both on secondary data, in particular existing databases that are re-analysed to shed light on a problem different from the original one for which they were constituted, and on primary research, or data collected specifically for the current study.
The purpose of conclusive research is to provide a reliable or representative picture of the population by using a valid research instrument. In the case of formal research, it will also test the hypotheses.
Conclusive research can be subdivided into two broad categories: Descriptive or statistical and causal research.
Descriptive or statistical research provides data on the population or universe studied. But it can only describe the “who, what, when, where, and how” of a situation, not what caused it. Therefore, descriptive research is used when the objective is to provide a systematic description that is as objective and accurate as possible. It provides the number of times something happens, or the frequency, and lends itself to statistical calculations such as determining the average number of occurrences or central trends.
One of its main limitations is that it cannot help determine the causes of a particular behavior, motivation, or event. In other words, it cannot establish a causal research relationship between variables.
The two most common types of descriptive research designs are
According to Altuve (1990), observation is a primary method of data collection by human, mechanical, electrical or electronic means. The investigator may or may not have direct contact or communication with the people whose behavior is being recorded. Observational techniques can be part of both qualitative and quantitative research. There are six different ways to classify observation methods:
Participant and non-participant observation
Depending on whether the researcher decides to be part of the situation he studies (for example, studying the social interaction of tourist groups being a participant of the tour would be a participant observation)
Intrusive and non-intrusive observation (or physical trace)
Depending on whether the subjects studied can detect observation (for example, microphones or hidden cameras that observe behavior and audit garbage to determine consumption are examples of non-intrusive observation).
Observation in natural or artificial environments
In which the behavior is observed (usually discreetly) when and where it is occurring, while in the artificial environment the situation is recreated to accelerate the behavior
Covert and uncovered observation
Depending on whether or not the observed subjects know that they are being studied. In covert observation, the researcher may pretend to be someone else, for example, “only” another tourist participating in the tour group, rather than the other members of the group being aware that he is a researcher.
Structured and unstructured observation
Which refers to the use of guidelines or a checklist for the aspects of behaviour to be recorded; for example, note who initiates the introductory conversation between two members of the tour group and which specific words are used as a presentation.
Direct and indirect observation
Depending on whether the behavior is observed at the time it occurs or a posteriori, as in the case of television viewing, for example, where the choice of program and the change of channel can be recorded for further analysis.
Data Collected in the Observation
The data collected may refer to an event or other event rather than to persons. Although observation of nonverbal behavior is normally considered, this is not necessarily true, as comments and/or exchange between people can also be recorded and would be considered part of this technique, as long as the researcher does not control or manipulate in some way what is said. For example, staging a typical sales encounter and recording the seller’s responses and reactions would be considered an observational technique.
Advantages of Observation
A clear advantage of the observation technique is that it records the actual behavior, not what people say they said/did or think they will say/will do. In fact, sometimes the actual behavior recorded can be compared with their statements, to check the validity of their responses. Especially when it comes to behaviors that may be subject to some social pressure (e.g., people consider themselves tolerant when their actual behavior may be much less) or conditioned responses (e.g., people say they value nutrition, but will choose foods they know are fatty or sweet), the observation technique can provide more information than an actual survey technique.
On the other hand, the observation technique does not provide us with any information about what the person may be thinking or what may motivate a certain behavior/comment. This type of information can only be obtained by asking people directly or indirectly.
When people are observed, whether or not they are aware of it, ethical questions arise that the researcher must take into account. Especially with technological advances, cameras and microphones have made it possible to collect a significant amount of information about the verbal and non-verbal behavior of customers, as well as employees, which could easily be considered as an invasion of privacy or an abuse, especially if the subject is not aware of being observed and , however, the information is used to make decisions that affect you.
The survey technique consists of collecting primary data on the subjects, usually selecting a representative sample of the population or universe under study, through the use of a questionnaire. According to Ruiz (1995), it is a very popular technique since many types of information can be collected, including attitudinal, motivational, behavioral and perceptual aspects. It allows a standardization and uniformity both in the questions asked and in the method of approaching the subjects, which greatly facilitates the comparison and contrast of the answers by groups of respondents. It also ensures greater reliability than other techniques.
If designed and implemented correctly, surveys can be an effective and accurate means of determining information about a given population. Results can be provided relatively quickly and, depending on the sample size and methodology chosen, are relatively inexpensive. However, surveys also have a number of disadvantages, which the researcher must take into account when determining the appropriate data collection technique.
Since in any survey the respondent knows that he or she is being studied, the information provided may not be valid to the extent that the respondent wishes to impress (e.g., attributing a higher level of income or education) or to please (e.g., the researcher by providing the type of answer he or she believes the researcher is looking for) or to please the researcher. This is known as error or response bias.
Willingness or responsiveness can also pose a problem.
Information may be considered sensitive or intrusive (e.g., information about income or sexual preferences), leading to a high rate of rejection. Or maybe the question is so specific that the respondent can’t answer, even if they’re willing (for example, “How many times over the last month have you thought about a possible vacation destination?”). If the people who refuse to answer are really different from those who do not, it is a non-response error or a bias. Careful wording of the questions can help overcome some of these problems.
The interviewer may (inadvertently) influence the answer obtained through the comments made or by emphasizing certain words in the question itself. In surveys, the interviewer can also introduce bias through facial expressions, body language, or even the clothes they wear. This is known as interviewer error or bias.
Another consideration is the response rate. Depending on the method chosen, the length of the questionnaire, the type and/or motivation of the respondent, the type of questions and/or topic, the time of day or the place, and whether respondents were informed that they were waiting for the survey or were offered an incentive, all this may influence the response rate obtained. Proper questionnaire design and question formulation can help increase the response rate.
If the objective is to determine which variable may be causing a certain behavior, that is, if there is a cause and effect relationship between the variables, a causal investigation must be carried out. To determine causation, it is important to keep constant the variable that is supposed to cause the change in the other variable(s) and then measure the changes in the other variable(s). According to Cook and Reichadt (2000), this type of research is very complex and the researcher can never be completely sure that there are no other factors that influence the causal relationship, especially when it comes to people’s attitudes and motivations. There are often much deeper psychological considerations, of which even the respondent may not be aware.
There are two research methods for exploring the cause-and-effect relationship between variables:
One way to establish causality between variables is through the use of experimentation. This highly controlled method allows the researcher to manipulate a specific independent variable to determine the effect this manipulation would have on other dependent variables. Experimentation also requires a control group and an experimentation group, and subjects are randomly assigned to either group.
The researcher can also decide whether the experiment should take place in a laboratory or in the field, i.e. in a “natural” environment rather than an “artificial” one. Laboratory research allows the researcher to control and/or eliminate as many intervening variables as possible. For example, restaurant décor might influence the response to a taste test, but a neutral environment would allow this odd variable to be eliminated.
The experimental design is a conclusive investigation of a primary nature. Experimentation is a quantitative research technique, but depending on how the experiment is established, it can relate more to observation than to direct communication.
Another way to establish causality between variables is by using simulation.
A sophisticated set of mathematical formulas is used to simulate or mimic a real-life situation. By changing one variable in the equation, you can determine the effect on the other variables in the equation.
In the hospitality and tourism sector, computer simulation and modelling are used very little. Its use is usually limited to a few rare impact and forecasting studies.
The simulation design is a conclusive investigation of a secondary nature. Simulation is a quantitative research technique.
Main differences between conclusive and exploratory design
It should be noted that conclusive research is more likely to use statistical tests, advanced analytical techniques, and larger sample sizes, compared to exploratory studies. Conclusive research is more likely to use quantitative than qualitative techniques. Conclusive research serves to provide a reliable or representative picture of the population through the application of a valid research instrument.
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Altuve, S.(1990). Research Methodology. Instructional Module. Caracas: Universidad Experimental Simón Rodríguez.
Cook, T. and Reichadt, Ch (2,000) Qualitative and quantitative methods in evaluative research. Madrid: Editorial Morata
Ruiz, J. (1.995) “El Estudio de Casos, una estrategia para el análisis del uso de Nuevas Tecnologías de la Información en Educación”. In López-Barajas and Montoya A., M. (1.995) The Case Study. Fundamentals and Methodology. Madrid: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia