Research Method of Hospitality Industry

Abstract

Two studies related to the hospitality industry have been reviewed here in this paper. One pertains to the general perceptions of hospitality students about the industry as a whole. The other is more specific and studies the possible surprise and sense-making that happens when students become employees for the first time. Both have been well researched. There are some drawbacks to both papers. A lot of references to other studies have also been made. Both provide useful information for people who are interested in the hospitality industry.

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Introduction

Research papers are one way in which valuable information is made available to students, other researchers, and people interested in a particular topic. This way of obtaining information and knowledge is considered to be more reliable than books or articles since a well-written paper would have used well-established ways of collecting data. It can be from other peer-reviewed research papers referred to as secondary data and through direct ways of obtaining information referred to as primary data. “Peer-reviewed research is usually of high quality. A research consumer, however, should still critically evaluate the study’s methodology and conclusions.” (Assessing research quality (n.d)).

The quality, accuracy, and validity of the information provided in a research paper will depend on how the study is designed and conducted. This paper is a critical analysis of two such research papers based on the topic of employment and academics concerning the hospitality sector. One of them obtained data through qualitative methods while the other obtained data through quantitative methods. While reviewing the paper, a detailed review of different methods of data collection and reasons for choosing them will be done. In the majority of studies, it is not possible to survey the entire population and hence the use of samples has resorted too. A short review of sampling will also be done. This is because the papers were selected based on, collecting data. It will also discuss the relative advantages of qualitative and quantitative research.

The two papers are ‘Making a career of it? Hospitality students’ future’ perspectives: an Anglo-Dutch study by Andrew Kevin Jenkins, and ‘Surprise and sense making: undergraduate placement experiences in SMEs’ by Andreas Walmsley, Rhodri Thomas and Stephanie Jameson. The aim of the first paper henceforth referred to as Paper 1, “is to establish students’ general perceptions of the hospitality industry.” (Jenkins 2001, p.13).

The purpose of the second paper henceforth referred to as Paper 2, “seeks to explore undergraduate placement experiences in tourism and hospitality SMEs, focusing on the notions of surprise and sense-making”. (Walmsley, Thomas and Jameson 2006, p.360). Paper 1 uses quantitative research methods (questionnaire) and Paper 2 uses qualitative research (interviews). Twenty hospitality students were selected from many universities for this purpose. For the quantitative study, a questionnaire was distributed to 208 students, and those who responded numbered 58 (response rate of 27.75 percent) in the case of Paper 1. All the twenty students had completed a 48-week placement in small and medium organizations belonging to the hospitality industry. They were hence, qualified to take part in the interview and would have experienced some level of surprise and sense-making. The authors indicate that all jobs were part-time ones. The authors contend that they had some difficulty in getting the number of students because most of the students in these universities had received placements in large organizations. SMEs in this instance are those employing less than 250 employees (based on EU definition of SMEs)

Sampling and data collection

When undertaking a study two main methods of data collection are reported to. Data can be collected from primary and secondary sources. “Data collection is simply how information is gathered. There are various methods of data collection such as personal interviewing, telephone, mail and the Internet.” (Data collection methodology 2005). In most studies, it is possible to collect data from people who are directly affected by the topic of the study. Such a collection of people is called the population of the study. “In theory, to generalize findings, evaluators must first define the population.” (Chapter 3: designing the sample or population for data collection 1993).

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It is also possible that no previous studies have been done on the topic. In such cases, data is collected from reliably published literature and other studies on this area. Such studies are based on secondary data. “Secondary data should not be accepted automatically at face value.” (Patzer 1995, p.31). Both Paper 1 and Paper 2 used primary data for the study. In the case of the latter, twenty students were interviewed. Twenty interviews can be considered sufficient for a qualitative study. In the case of Paper 1, the response rate was poor and hence a criticism about the small sample size can be made here. It could also indicate a lack of interest in the topic (relevance) among respondents. The authors refer to Mukhtar et al and state that student perception of placement opportunities is very poor. (Walmsley, Thomas and Jameson 2006, p.361). Both papers do extensively quote previous related studies which add credibility to their studies.

In the case of both the papers, there appears no problem for conducting a primary study since respondents are available in plenty. The authors do not justify their chosen methodology and it appears that either of the papers could have used either qualitative or quantitative methods of data collection. It could be that each of them used a methodology convenient for them. More analysis on this area will be done later in this paper under the section qualitative and quantitative research.

It is practically not possible to interview or survey every single person of the population especially if the population is quite large and hence sampling is resorted to as a solution. A sample is “a group of people or elements selected from the population being studied.” (Glossary: research and training 2007).

Selecting a representative population is important and the researcher has to see that sampling errors do not occur. In this case, both papers have selected a representative sample since all of them belonged to the hospitality industry. The quantitative study admits to errors because the authors have not verified the accuracy of the data.

Apart from stating that further studies were needed on the area, there is no mention of sampling errors in Paper 2, but using twenty interviews should be just sufficient to eliminate sampling error. The book, ‘Social Research Methods state that around thirty to forty interviews have to be conducted to obtain sufficient data. The book adds that boredom and chances of losing interest on the part of the researchers can occur even in the case of semi-structured interviews. This happens after the first few interviews and becomes greater as the interviews progress. (Russell 2000, p.202).

In this case, twenty can be considered sufficient especially since the study is focused on a particular industry’s perceptions. The possibility of the researcher getting bored or losing interest could have happened here also. It should be noted that these were detailed interviews which must have taken up a lot of time for each participant. The paper (which studies two institutions only) admits that the perceptions of the respondents cannot be representative of the whole country and industry. It only represents the views of students from the two institutions. They say that further studies will be needed to throw more light on this area.

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Both papers also do not mention in any detail what type of sampling was done. Paper 1 states that the respondents were from two universities. But there is no mention as to how they were selected. But it states that all the respondents were studying for some form of hospitality course. The feeling is that the selection could have been based on simple or stratified random sampling. There is a chance that the latter was followed since an effort at identifying two particular universities and hospitality students was done. As mentioned earlier, the response was quite poor and the quality of the respondents was not tested. But one positive factor is that they were from some countries. Hence the perception of many nationalities could be had in this study.

Paper 2 also does not mention how the students were selected for the interview or what method was followed in the selection. It would have been better if the total population had been mentioned and also the total number of students approached for the interview. There will always be some refusals and this could be analyzed to form a comparison with the response rate in Paper 1. For example, if fifty students had been originally approached and twenty (the number of interviewees) had said yes, the response would have been 40%. Since this was not done, a comparison of interest to take part in the survey could have been made concerning the papers.

Data collection methods

The results from the study and survey of the sample will result in possession of any information or data with the researcher. The researcher has to measure and record the results from this data. This process is known as data collection. As mentioned earlier, there are many scientifically accepted method of data collection which is given here in detail.

Paper 1 correctly states how the data was collected, i.e. by sending questionnaires to two specific institutions. Their purpose in collecting the sample is clear which is to find the perceptions of students of two institutions. The self-completed questionnaire sent in the case of Paper 1 did not facilitate proper checking of the answers. If the survey had been a face-to-face one, this problem could have been corrected to a large extent. But since this was done through post, no clarification was possible.

Likewise, Paper 2 also clearly states their data collection method. All interviewees were from hospitality teaching institutions, but they have not stated the area/country from which they were selected. Since data was collected using an interview (direct interaction) accuracy and validity of data are possibly more in Paper 2.

The authors’ perceptions of the limitations of the two studies have already been stated in the previous section under sampling errors. Both papers do not mention ethics, hence it can only be assumed that proper steps were taken to see that such considerations have been taken into account by the researchers.

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Qualitative and quantitative research

According to Strauss and Corbin, qualitative study is “any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at using statistical procedures or other means of quantification.” (Hoepft 2009). This type of research is done when the data is not in its raw form and needs more effort at interpretation. “Qualitative research takes an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter; qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings that people bring to them.” (Editorials 1995). Quantitative research, on the other hand, entails ‘Explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics).” (Muijs 2004, p.1). This is to understand phenomena that can be measured mathematically. The samples in this type of research tend to be large, usually fifty or more, and questions will be structured and closed. (DJS research ltd 2009). On closer review, there is an apparent logic in choosing the respective research method by both the researchers. Paper 2 primarily focuses on feelings (surprise and sense-making).

This is more understood in a face-to-face meeting rather than by answering closed questions. Talking about feelings is possible during interviews. The authors have stated the interviews were detailed ones. Clarifications and relevant details are possible in such an environment. Paper 1 on the other hand focused on general perceptions which can be understood through the self-completed questionnaire. Moreover, the paper also admits to costing considerations and states that this method of study was chosen because it was comparatively cheap when compared to interviews. The book ‘Data Collection Analysis’ states that response rates in postal interviews will be low “unless they engage the respondent’s interests or the investigation is perceived as being of direct value to the respondents.” (Sapsford and Jupp 2006, p.102). The low response rate, in this case, can be a drawback because of the above two reasons. Either the study did not interest the respondents or they did not feel it was relevant to them. It could also be that the respondents were not professional enough to understand the seriousness of the study. One reason attributed to this low response rate by the authors is that questionnaires were sent at the wrong time. In one institution it was sent when studies were in full flow while in the other, it was sent after teaching was over. Students may not have the time or inclination to answer questions while involved in studies.

In the case of Paper 2, the aim was to determine the surprise factor of students when they leave academics and become employees. The authors hypothesized that students will be surprised to a great extent when they find the difference between an academic environment and a workplace. In a sense, the perceptions (surprised or not surprised) could well be collected using closed questions also. In this regard, the authors specifically state that they were more interested in the level of surprise experienced by the interviewees.

Discussion

Scope of the study: Both papers were focused on specific areas or topics. Hence the scope in both cases can be considered to be limited. In comparison, the scope of Paper 1 is greater since it pertains to ‘general perceptions of the hospitality industry, but whatever may be the scope, information from both papers are relevant to potential employees in hospitality. In the case of Paper 2, the information is relevant to the hospitality industry as well.

Validity, reliability, and ethics

All the above factors are important in research. Unless a paper has validity about the purpose of the study, the results obtained will be irrelevant.

“Validity refers to the accuracy and trustworthiness of instruments, data, and findings in research. Nothing is more important than validity.” (Russell 2000, p.46). There is nothing here to indicate a lack of validity of instruments used, data obtained, and the results in both the papers. As mentioned earlier Paper 1 admits to a possible lack of accuracy since the answers could not be checked. Paper 2 made use of interviews and hence correctly recording and analyzing the answers will assure both validity and reliability. Points that need clarification can be done so in such a case by asking more questions. In that sense, Paper 2 can be said to be more reliable and valid since the interviews were conducted in person. An area where Paper 1 scores over the other one are the extensive use of charts, graphs, and tables. Using such graphical presentations increases the readability and clarity of the findings. Both papers had the scope to include graphs and tables but only one of them did so. For example, Paper 2 could have mentioned the nationality of the interviewees. This is relevant because of the differences in social and cultural perceptions that exist between countries. For example, an Asian might have different levels of surprise and sense-making when compared with an American or European student. This would have lent more depth to the study.

About ethics, both papers have not mentioned the issue which can be considered to be a drawback.

Recommendation

On the whole, both studies were conducted scientifically. The timing of the study of Paper 1 could have been better because of the poor response rates due to semesters and holidays. This is what the authors claim, and if this is not the reason, then the topic of the study may not be interesting to the students. Maybe the author could have focused on a more specific area rather than go for general perception. It should also have got participants from more universities instead of opting for just two. Paper 2 should include graphs and charts which would have made it look more professional and easier to grasp. Paper 2 study was interesting, but surprising because it did not match with previous literature or studies (low level of surprise) on the topic. On the other hand, it could also be that most of the students found what they had originally expected. This could be due to an error (sampling, data analysis, etc) and hence one more attempt will clear this difference in results)

Conclusion

Two papers concerning the hospitality industry have been reviewed here. Both are well-researched papers and provide information for those interested in the hospitality industry. In the case of Paper 1, there is no specific research hypothesis. It just aims at finding the general perceptions of students about the hospitality industry. Paper 2 provides a clear hypothesis that there is a level of surprise and sense-making of newly placed students about the experiences in the workplace. The quote from the paper will clear this point. “For sense-making to occur, there has to be some clash of experience with expectation. The literature suggests that for someone with little prior work experience one would predict some “reality shock” in entering the world of work”. (Walmsley, Thomas and Jameson 2006, p. 366). The paper states that students have previous perceptions about working, but will be surprised because of the wide variance between perceptions and reality, also the authors were surprised that this hypothesis could not be validated from their study.

Reference

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Jenkins, A. K. 2001. Making a career of it? Hospitality students’ future’ perspectives: an Anglo-Dutch study: Introduction. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 13-20. MCB University Press: (s.l). (Provided by student).

Muijs, D. 2004. Doing quantitative research in education with SPSS: introduction to quantitative research: what is quantitative research. [online book] SAGE. Web.

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Walmsley, A., Thomas, R. and Jameson, S. 2006. Surprise and sense making: undergraduate placement experiences in SMEs :Abstract. Journal of Education + Training, 48(5), 360 – 372, Emerald Group Publishing Ltd: (s.l). (Provided by student)

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