The Problem Definition Stage

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Question 1

a. “The problem definition stage is perhaps more critical in the research process than the problem solution stage". Discuss this statement.

• Finding the right solution to an incorrectly identified problem helps no one because the original concerns will still continue to exist. Hence, pinpointing where exactly the gap lies, for which a solution is needed, is critical.

(5 marks)

b. In your company’s management development program, there was a heated discussion between some people who claimed, “Theory is impractical and thus no good,” and others who claimed, “Good theory is the most practical approach to problems.” What position would you take and why?


• The statement that “theory is impractical and thus no good” illustrates a misconception of the true meaning of theory. • The second quotation is more to the point: there is nothing so practical as a good theory (Kurt Lewin) because of the power it gives us to explain and predict the target phenomenon. • We use theory constantly as we explain why certain events occur or why one procedure succeeds and another does not. • Theory represents an identification of key causal relationships, which explain outcomes in a variety of situations. It is an effort to extract the essence of relationships, ignoring less important contextual factors. • The adequacy of a theory comes from its capacity to explain phenomenon in a variety of contexts and situations and this is referred to as its capacity to “travel.” • Often, theories are too simplistic, and therefore lack explanatory power across situations. • The solution lies in improving the theory, possibly introducing more variables, rather than rejecting the central concept. . (10 marks)

c. Sometimes business research may be unnecessary. Explain when this could occur. Answer: Business research may be unnecessary in several situations. • If the value of addressing the problem is less than the cost of the research, research is unnecessary. • If the organization suffers from constraints of time, money, or skill, the research may not be appropriate. • If the necessary information cannot be collected in a manner that is applicable to the research, it may not be necessary. • Finally, if the decision is of low-risk anyway, research is unnecessary. (5 marks)

d. Explain the meaning of deduction and induction. Provide an argument that exemplifies each form.

• Deduction is a form of argument that suggests a conclusion from the reasons given. The reasons imply the conclusion. A deduction is valid if it is impossible for the conclusion to be false if the premises are true. Consider the following example. o AXY employees receive a discount on all clothing purchases made at any AXY store. Sarah is an employee at the AXY store in city X. Sarah will receive a discount at any AXY store. • Induction is different from deduction in that it draws a conclusion from one or more facts. However, other conclusions could be drawn from the facts. For example, Burger King was featured on an episode of the Apprentice. Sales figures increased in the two weeks immediately following the episode. The conclusion is that the brand placement resulted in the increase in sales. While this conclusion is possible, other explanations have not been eliminated.

(10 marks)

Question 2

A teacher observes that the performance of students in the class varies depending on the workload, the complexity of the tests, the extent of ambiguity in the assignments, and the stress experienced by them. She assigns to you the task of doing a research project on this and wants you to do the following: a. Give the project a suitable title; To investigate factors that affect students’ performance. b. Briefly establish why it is important to research the topic; It is important to research...
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