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As there are no set rules of ‘inductively analysing qualitative data’ (Patton, 1980; Yin, 1994; Shaw, 1999), a distinct method was used to extract the crux of findings, which is explained now as Carter (1999) warns “one of the potential dangers of adopting a predominantly qualitative research approach would lie in not explaining how the researcher turned the raw data into findings”.
As all respondents answered the same set of open-ended question that formed the semi-structured interviews, within case analysis has not been difficult. The only issue has been a lack of detail in two interviews that were hand recorded where the opportunity to quote the respondents verbatim has been lost. The process in within casa analysis has essentially been of distilling the discussion to filter out information unrelated to any form of substantive inquiry and colleting all relevant information under various strands of inquiry.
For cross case analysis, several documents titled by each theme that emerged from three phases of gradual building up of understanding of the phenomena, as blank Microsoft Word files were created and kept them simultaneously open on a pc desktop. Each interview transcription was then carefully read and each interview summary one at a time and copied and pasted anything mentioned that related to any specific theme of inquiry in the file on the theme. When the process was complete, each file contained all the raw cross-case comparison data that the investigation had generated on each theme. All evidence collated on each theme was then read together to see what was the nature of evidence and if all evidence pointed to a single pattern or there were more than one pattern. In case of differing patterns, presence of any explanatory influence was then searched for. After the process was complete the files were converted into a coherent text explaining the themes in terms of who, what, how and why of it. The text with the quotes from transcriptions as well as phrases from interview summaries were also liberally interspersed for subsequent readers to verify that the assertions made are consistent with the actual evidence from the interviews to ‘explicate how we claim to know what we know’ (Altheide and Johnson, 1994). One single document, summing up all the themes thus analysed was then made available to members of the supervisory team for review and comments.
The process explained above yielded a definitive and previously largely unknown picture of small business innovation in food industry in Scotland. This makes one thing obvious. There indeed is a definitive pattern of innovation in the Scottish food SMEs because no research, howsoever carefully orchestrated, can find out a pattern where none exists.
To validate the main findings of this research, a panel of six experts from the Scottish food industry was constituted and its members invited to attend a presentation. These experts have significant entrepreneurial experience and first-hand knowledge of the innovation process in this industry. The panel attended a 90-minute validation session at the Craiglockhart campus of the Napier University on March 12, 2008. During this session, the panel members were apprised of the main findings of this research and were requested to give their views. The proceeding of the validation session was digitally recorded and later transcribed.
The panel in general, validated all findings of this research. The discussion, however, highlighted the fact that some of the personal experiences of the individual members differed from one another and not all members concurred completely with the findings on each count. This is not a surprise, as the innovation process that this research has identified too varies in bits and pieces from company to company and only the underlying common innovation process that was observed in the most investigated businesses was presented to the panel.