Research strategy

Taking the main research question into account, I have to answer a ‘how’ question and I have to provide insight into a decision-making process. This implies to conduct deep research instead of broad. It also implies qualitative research, because I think it is not possible to do calculations with gathered data, but it would be possible to compare results with theory. Qualitative data sources include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), interviews and questionnaires, documents and texts, and the researcher’s impressions and reactions (Myers, 1997). Quantitative methods include survey methods, laboratory experiments, formal methods (e.g. econometrics) and numerical methods such as mathematical modelling (Myers, 1997). The third decision is more difficult to make. I would like to make an addition to existing theory of Brynjolfsson et al. (2003), so that means existing literature is an important foundation. However, to answer the ‘how’ question, I have to evaluate practice situations, or maybe followed strategies. As a result, this research is a combination of empirical and desktop research.

In this thesis I already started with a desktop research in Chapter 2, which resulted in the overall research question and four hypotheses. The overall research question is a ‘how’ question. This means the strategy I have to choose is an experiment, history or a case study (Yin, 2003, p. 5). The next criteria to test are if it is needed to control behavioural events and if it is needed to focus on contemporary events. The first criteria cannot be confirmed, and the second can, which leaves the case study as the strategy to use. A case study examines a phenomenon in its natural setting, employing multiple methods of data collection to gather information from one or a few entities (Benbasat et al., 1987).

Yin (2003) identified three types of case studies, exploratory, explanatory, and descriptive. An exploratory research design tries to precisely define the research question and form hypotheses. In an exploratory case study, the collection of data occurs before theories or specific research questions are formulated. Descriptive research design goes a bit further and tries to describe different characteristics of a phenomenon. The descriptive case study will require a theory to guide the collection of data. The explanatory research design can be used when the research field has matured. This design tries to explain course of events and relate how things happened. This thesis can be seen as a combination of exploratory and explanatory. According to Yin (2003), this is an explanatory research because it tries to answer a ‘how’ question. However, because existing literature about customization of digital products is scarce, this research can be classified as exploratory.

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