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The basic information that forms the core of analysis in this thesis comes from the ‘key informants’, people who have personally developed new products in the Scottish food industry over a long period. Coming from the ‘horse’s mouth’, to use a cliché, the information is first-hand and uncontaminated. As the principal instrument to generate information is interview, the research uses ‘a modus operandi’, which is suitable to ‘construct a situation which was quite familiar to the individuals involved’ (Carter, 1999).
When the data was collected through fieldwork, one of the supervisors was usually present. All the supervisors looked at the data in several forms. They came across it as the persons present during the interviews, as listeners to recorded interviews, as readers of transcriptions and summaries and as readers of the final findings. Any inconsistency between the conclusions drawn and the basic evidence, therefore, could not have been overlooked.
Academic research is often evaluated on three counts, validity, reliability and generalisability (Easterby-Smith et al., 1991). It is argued, however, that these criteria come from assessment of quantitative research (Kirk and Miller, 1986) and are inappropriate to judge the qualitative research efforts. Patton (1980) in this context recommends that the qualitative analysis should deliver ‘useful, meaningful and credible answers’. An attempt to provide such answers is made in Chapter 8 of this thesis. Carter (1999) analysing Miles and Huberman’s (1994) set of criteria to assess qualitative research explains how researchers can claim that these are met by their work. He argues, that by presenting ‘as full as possible a description of the methods used in the study’, one can establish that the ‘objectivity/conformability’ criterion is met. By explaining that research systematically studied what it claimed to study, the ‘reliability/dependability/Auditability’ yardstick is tested. If the findings have meaning for those interested in them ‘internal validity/credibility/authenticity’ is met and the claim of ‘external validity/transferability/fittingness’ is established by putting the research within a broader analytical framework by connecting it with the extant theory.
Presented above is a description, as complete as possible, of methods that are used in this research and it is also explained how the process of innovation in the case study companies is systematically studied in this research. It can be, thus, said that the ‘objectivity /conformability’ and ‘reliability /dependability /Auditability’ criteria are satisfied. In Chapters 6, 8 and 9 of this dissertation, how the findings of this work have meaning for those interested in the phenomenon of small business innovation in Scottish food sector is explained. This satisfies the criteria of ‘internal validity /credibility /authenticity’. In Chapter 8, the research is put within a broader analytical framework by connecting it with the extant theory and by pronouncing major theoretical propositions that emerge from this work. This explains how this research also meets the norms of ‘external validity /transferability /fittingness.
A positivist quantitative verification of the model of product innovation derived from the case studies was subsequently carried out through a triangulation survey of Scottish companies that have successfully developed new products. The details of the survey process, methods used and survey results are provided in Chapter 8 of this thesis.