COMMERCE 7039 - Business Research Methods (M)

North Terrace Campus - Trimester 1 - 2016

This course is designed to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to determine the information necessary to address an identified research problem (basic or applied) and, using this understanding, develop and use an actionable research proposal. In this process, the students will gain an understanding of relevant approaches and elements of undertaking a research enquiry specifically to provide insights to solving a relevant problem. They will develop critical core competencies and skills required to carry out such an enquiry. These competencies and skills include: defining research questions; setting appropriate research objectives; study design that incorporates research objectives and budgetary constraints; secondary and primary data collection and instruments; sampling and analysis methods; and effective reporting of results; as well as the importance of ethical conduct in conducting research in both a domestic and in international business contexts.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code COMMERCE 7039
    Course Business Research Methods (M)
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Business School
    Term Trimester 1
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 36 hours
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites Students enrolling in this course, must have arranged for and met with their Research Supervisor (from their Discipline, School or Department) and have their supervisor's approval for the chosen research topic, before commencing this course.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Cate Jerram

    Course Coordinators:
    Dr Cullen Habel
    Office Location Level 09, Nexus 10
    Office Hours: Flexible about time, but email for appointments.
    Work Phone 08 8313 4763

    Dr Cate Jerram
    Work Phone 088313 4757
    Office Location 09.03 Nexus 10 (10 Pulteney St, University of Adelaide, 5005)
    Office Hours: Flexible about time, but email for appointments.

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    Note: this course is run on a participatory seminar-basis. A considerable degree of the course assessment will occur during seminars which occur on Saturdays, from 9:00am – 4:30pm. For specific dates, see your Course Calendar and/or MyUni.

    Saturday Seminar 1 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Introduction; research philosophy; types of research; approaches to research; management of research; use of NVivo to manage project; introduction to: Qualtrics, SPSS, and EndNote; the Research Brief.

    Saturday Seminar 2 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Understanding data; Performing tests & tabulations; Defining & refining research questions & objectives, and developing hypotheses, propositions & theory building methods; Literature Review; use of NVivo to conduct Lit Review & support hypotheses/gap/design.

    Saturday Seminar 3 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Multivariate methods; test for association; developing insight off quantitative data; qualitative theory; NVivo for analysis.

    Saturday Seminar 4 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Qualitative Research Approaches & Methods; Data Analysis & Exploration; Data gathering methods, skills and techniques.

    Saturday Seminar 5 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Survey design & building skills; ethics & HREC applications; Research design & constraints (esp budget, ethics & international issues); Data Synthesis, use of Conceptual Frameworks & lenses, & mid-range theories; Theory Building; Write-up

    Saturday Seminar 6 [9:00am – 4:30pm]
    Research Proposal Workshop; Live Submission of Qualitative Assignment (& immediate feedback).

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    The course provides a strong grounding in understanding the research process enabling students to either engage an external research organisation to undertake a study on their behalf in a business environment or, alternatively, action and complete a research project themselves as either the sole researcher or as part of a research team. In addition to the technical skills and knowledge required to be successful in these endeavours, the course also provides students with a clear understanding of the ethical considerations involved in undertaking research and the special challenges evidenced in international and cross cultural studies.

    On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
    1. Apply an advanced understanding of business research design options, methodologies and analysis methods (both qualitative and quantitative), including respective terms, definitions and applications to the design, implementation and evaluation of a research project.
    2. Distil an identified business problem into a succinct research problem (or problems) and articulate this into a comprehensive research brief for investigation by a research team locally or internationally.
      • This brief will include a statement of the resulting research problem and the objectives that need to be achieved to provide the information necessary to tackle the business problem and the decisions that need to be made respective to it.
    3. Complete, from the brief created, a research proposal for implementation at either a local or international level.
      • This will include (but not be restricted to), a literature summary at the necessary level of depth to ensure a thorough understanding of what is already known about the problem to be addressed, the proposed research design, data collection, sampling, analysis methods to be employed along with an indicative time frame for each stage of the research proposed and budget.
    4. Apply a broad understanding of issues specific to undertaking business research across international boundaries, including cultural, geographical, language and cost related challenges and respective strategies and approaches that may be employed to solve them to the design, implementation and evaluation of a research project.
    5. Recognise, and take account of, the importance of ethical conduct in undertaking research, including potential implications for business relationships, effects on potential respondents and sensitivity to cultural differences and honesty and integrity in analysis and reporting in the design, implementation and evaluation of a research project.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1 - 5
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1 - 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    3, 4
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    1 - 5
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    4, 5
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    1 - 5
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    GILL, John & JOHNSON, Phil (2010) Research Methods for Managers, 4th edition, London: Sage.

    Readings: See Course Materials - Assigned reading material has been provided to generate greater depth of understanding on particular topics and may be discussed during class sessions. It is likely that this material will provide useful examples and references during assessment.

    Recommended Resources
    Course Website:

    As an important part of your course, you will need to become familiar with the collection of quantitative data using a web survey. You will need to get yourself an account by going to and using your university password.

    ADAPT (Any Device, Any Place and Time) allows staff and students to access their learning and teaching applications on personal devices: desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones, anywhere:

    • On campus via the UofA wireless network; and
    • Off campus via broadband access and 3G/4G Mobile networks.

    Through this “virtual suite” you will be able to use a range of licensed software products such as Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and a range of other useful software.

    Details for ADAPT can be found at:

    If you have a PC or a Windows MacIntosh, you can download and install nVivo11 Pro version from QSR International. You can install on a two week trial licence and then contact to receive a license code. nVivo11 will not run through ADAPT and the version for Mac does not perform adequately. So we request that you either use the nVivo through the pool computers or on your own PC.

    For the required level of Advanced Excel Skills: these skills are articulated on the university's ITS online training site. If you are unsure if you have the necessary level of Excel expertise, book the online courses provided by ITS. Note: Excel online training has 3 courses (levels 1, 2 & 3). You need all three. You can only book one at a time. You have 2 weeks to accomplish each level (but can progress faster if you wish or rebook to repeat a level). You will need to have accomplished level 3 by commencement of session 1 in Business Research Methods.

    All topic lectures will be recorded for the benefit of those that can't attend the sessions. (Interactive discussions and sessions cannot be recorded without permission from every person participating). A comprehensive reading list will also be available in addition to lecture slides (although this is not a 'slide intensive' course) etc. All resources will be available via the course MyUni site. All assessments are to be provided electronically and will be marked and returned electronically, where possible, mostly via the Turnitin portal on the MyUni site. Online discussion tools will be available for students to maintain contact with each other between intensive sessions.

    Online Learning
    All topic lectures will be recorded for the benefit of those that can't attend the sessions. (Interactive discussions and sessions cannot be recorded without permission from every person participating). A comprehensive reading list will also be available in addition to lecture slides (although this is not a 'slide intensive' course) etc. All resources will be available via the course MyUni site. All assessments are to be provided electronically and will be marked and returned electronically, where possible, mostly via the Turnitin portal on the MyUni site. Online discussion tools will be available for students to maintain contact with each other between intensive sessions.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    In order to perform well in this course, students must have a strong command of the relevant research theories and concepts covered in preparation and in class and successfully apply them in their assessment and project. Therefore, students are expected to have completed all the preparation and engagement work every week (including non-seminar weeks) and be fully prepared. In addition, there is a strong assumption that students will engage in seminar discussions in an informed way. The communication skills developed in seminars by regularly and actively participating in discussions are considered to be most important by the School and are highly regarded by employers and professional bodies.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The University expects full-time students (i.e. those taking 12 units per semester) to devote a total of 48 hours per week to their studies. This means that, for this course, you are expected to commit approximately 9 hours for private study (i.e., the study time outside of your regular classes). Students are required to attend all class sessions.
    Learning Activities Summary
    As per Course Timetable. Attendance schedule at Nexus 10, Lab 220, Computer Suite 1.
    Specific Course Requirements
    This course is preparatory to the culminating Research Project. Each School and Discipline has specific Research Project criteria, so students undertaking the Business Research Methods course must prepare for their Research Project specific to their home Discipline’s criteria rather than in a uniform manner across the course. Students are responsible to be familiar with their own Discipline’s criteria for length and style of written work, and meetings with their Research Supervisor.
    Proper class attendance must be observed (this includes, for instance, proper attendance, punctuality, returning from a break in a timely way, and the like).
    Academic writing PLC Workshop sessions are available. Students must attend at least one session.
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    This course is inherently conducted for development of individual Research Projects. Teamwork and small group discovery may be part of the class activities, but all assessment and primary focus is on individual accomplishment.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment Description

    Due Date


    Research Brief


    Week 5


    Quantitative Assignment


    Week 9


    Qualitative Assignment


    Week 11


    Research Proposal


    Week 12




    Assessment Related Requirements
    The critical things to note about the assessments in this course are that:
    • Discussion forum assignments are very interdependent - built on the concept of community of practice and peer support. ie: if you miss deadlines or mess up, your colleagues suffer as well as you.
    • The assessment activities contribute significantly to your actual research project. 
      • be timely - meet deadlines
      • but be sane - when you can only do it by half-killing yourself - negotiate
      • collaborate (note: acknowledged collaboration is a powerful professional and academic strength; UNacknowledged collaboration is called 'collusion' and is seen as cheating)
      • have fun (if you don't learn to enjoy it now, it will be 'unpleasantly hard work')
      • know that it DOES get easier - every piece you do makes the next one easier; every impossible-to-understand article you read makes the next one more possible and more readable - and your blogs will help you scale that wall faster and more easily than you can expect... the discussion board collaboration with your peers will make a world of difference. Therefore, your feedback to one another is critical!
    Assessment Detail

    Research Brief  (20%)  

    due: Sunday, 21 February, 11pm
    Students will submit a research brief that summarises a stated business problem that requires specific information in order for Managers to decide a strategic direction to address the issue.

    This will include a background to the problem and the implications of not finding a solution. The nature of the information that needs to be sourced (from both secondary and primary sources), concise and actionable research objectives and an indicative time frame for the completion of the resulting study.

    This is not meant to be an 'argument' for the research per se - but it must provide any researchers that may take on the task with good understanding of the issues involved and nature of the information that is needed to find a solution.

    A sample brief will be provided to students and many others can be found from a variety of sources. This brief (including no more than 10 references) may not exceed 2000 words.

    For greater detail, a grading rubric is provided in the online MyUni course platform.

    Qualitative and Quantitative Assignment (40%)

    Students will complete qualitative and quantitative assignments relevant to the research design they are pursuing in their proposal.
    The quantitative exercise will be used to give students important practice in practical aspects of developing quantitative instruments and analysing and interpreting results.
    The qualitative component will contribute directly to the literature review of all students, and the methods component for students who underake qualitative research.

    Submission will be electronic.

    This assessment occurs in two parts:
    • Qualitative Component (see below)
    • Quantitative Component (see below)
    Student Choice of Weighting:
    The default weighting of marks for this is
    • Qualitative - 20%
    • Quantitative - 20%
    However, students individually can select either a Qualitative or a Quantitative Weighting:
    • Qualitative weighting:
      • Qualitative - 30%
      • Quantitative - 10%
    • Quantitative weighting:
      • Qualitative - 10%
      • Quantitative - 30%
    To select the weighting you want, you must submit through the appropriate folder. The automated scaling system will automatically apply the weighting of your selection when your work is graded, based entirely upon the folder in which you submit both your qualitative and your quantitative assignment. Note: The Qualitative component is graded primarily during class.

    Please note: due to limitations in MyUni, the Qualitative assignment will be submitted by Dropbox. Instructions will be detailed in the course's MyUni site.

    Quantitative Assignment (default 20%)

    due: Sunday, 13 March, 11pm
    Students are required to read a short case study provided in this brief and answer 5 questions, selecting the appropriate statistical test to answer each business problem.

    This is an individual assignment. So, make sure you conduct data analysis and prepare a summary report individually. The written report represents a summary of key insight from your data analysis, demonstrating an ability to choose an appropriate statistical technique to provide answers to specific business research objectives, as well as an ability to correctly interpret results and develop preliminary conclusions and recommendations.

    The title for this report should also include the words Assignment 1_quant_student ID. Please submit this assignment as a Microsoft Word file. The assignment should not exceed 1,500 words (excluding the Appendix). Please use only the key tables or charts in the main body of your report with all support tables attached in the Appendix.

    Learning Objectives
    This assignment focuses on student’s ability to:
    • Develop skills in statistical analysis
    • Understand the need to relate research and management objectives to analysis and findings
    • Demonstrate an understanding of quantitative research and required analytical skills
    • Develop knowledge in the choice and application of inferential and descriptive statistical tests
    • Understand how quantitative research fits into the broader management and business planning process
    • Apply an advanced understanding of quantitative analysis methods to a specific research problem

    In addition, the aim of this assignment is to develop advanced knowledge in relation to the fundamental quantitative business and marketing research processes, such as:
    • Data preparation and re-coding
    • Descriptive data analysis and charting in SPSS and Excel, use of filters
    • Significant difference testing using ANOVA or an Independent-samples T-test
    • Factor analysis
    • Correlations and regressions
    • Provision of a short summary of key findings and recommendations

    For greater detail, a grading rubric is provided in the online MyUni course platform.

    Qualitative Assignment (default 20%)

    due: Saturday 9am, 23 April
    Students will complete a qualitative assignment that supports their upcoming research project and is relevant to the research design they are pursuing in their proposal. This accomplished by working in, and builing your project in, the software program NVivo11 Pro.The full software database employed is submitted via dropbox. This assignment lays the foundation for the research project literature review and methods chapter, and gives students important practice in practical aspects of developing qualitative instruments and analysing and interpreting results. More information will be provided on the MyUni site.

    For greater detail, a grading rubric is provided in the online MyUni course platform.

    Research Proposal (40%)  

    due: Saturday 12 noon, 30 April
    In order to pass this course, students must achieve at least 50% overall, and achieve a passing mark of at least 50% for their final research proposal. The written proposal is the culmination of the work in this course and provides the basis for the culminating Research Project. This document will be assessed on:
    1. Short restatement and justification of the research problem
    2. Relevance of objectives to the stated problem
    3. Adequate assessment of the relevant secondary data
    4. Justification of the research design and proposed methodology, including data collection and sampling methods. Questions to be answered include:
      • can it be done this way?
      • is it an appropriate design - is there a precedent for this design/approach?
      • will it provide the right kind of data and enough of it?
      • will analysis of the data provide the insights required?
      • are projected costs defendable?
    5. Proposed analytical methods
    6. Research budget and timelines for completion of the project
    7. Quality of written presentation (referencing, grammar, punctuation and clarity).
    For the purposes of this course, this document is expected to be no more than 15 pages (not including references and appendices), and follow the "Document Guidelines". (Please note: The University of Adelaide's version of Harvard Referencing is to be used.)

    For greater detail, a grading rubric is provided in the online MyUni course platform.

    Unless otherwise noted, all assessments conducted in-class are submitted in-class. All other assessments are submitted online.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

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