Business research methods


Research Methodology (this needs to be changed into a past tense methodology now that I have completed the research):

The opportunity that will be explored through this research is a social media marketing agency targeting SMEs in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  Specifically, these businesses will be within the tourism industry because they have a lot of potential to target visitors from other parts of the UK and beyond.  The services offered to them will include tailored marketing strategies that will utilise social media platforms to help them to target customers they have not been able to target before.  The clients will also be offered one-to-one meetings to discuss specific areas, for example, which market they specifically wish to target and which platform(s) would suit them best.

To fully understand the extent in which social media is used for marketing in the Highlands and Islands, secondary research will be carried out using various desk research techniques such as published reports, empirical studies as well as social media platforms themselves.  For instance, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Technology Strategy Board have each published reports detailing the trends of the digital economy in Scotland.  Several reports will be used in the secondary research including “Communications Market Report Scotland” (Ofcom 2017); “Digital Disruption and Small Business in Scotland” by the Federation of Small Businesses (Hamill 2015); and “Scotland’s Digital Future” (Scottish Government 2011).  Data will be obtained from these reports by analysing them based on common themes relevant to SMEs’ digital marketing.

These secondary sources will provide an important background upon which future digital marketing can be enhanced for the benefit of SMEs in Scotland.  Moreover, secondary sources will determine the nature of primary data that need to be collected to ensure the development of a well-informed business plan, based on real facts and figures.  Cross-examination techniques will be used to establish consistency and identify missing links, inconsistencies and falsehoods from secondary sources.  To strengthen validity, desk-research data will be fact-checked based on the credentials of the author, whether claims are backed up using credible sources and whether similar studies or reports are consistent with the authors’ claims.

It is important to capture the minds of the clients by seeking their knowledge and perception on their use of social media as a marketing strategy.  In this regard, a survey questionnaire will be given to approximately 50 SME’s in the tourism industry located in the Highlands and Islands, to find out whether they have social media accounts and whether they use them to market their products/services.  SMEs would each be sent an initial introductory email/message stating the reason for contacting them and a request for them to complete a survey.  If they respond, at that point they would then be sent a consent form and participant information sheet which will clearly state what taking part will involve.  Once they have consented to this, they will then receive the survey link and be given 7 days to respond to it.  The survey questionnaire will ask questions based on what platforms they currently use and how successful they believe they have been so far with their social media marketing strategy.  All the questions will be closed question types with multiple choice or scale-based answers.  There will also be the option for respondents to add additional options in the ‘Other’ box as well as a further comments section at the end of the survey.

An interview will also be carried out by the researcher with a representative from an existing social media management agency.  This interview will help to determine how a new business in this field would fit in and adapt to the marketplace.  It will also identify the unique selling points that can distinguish the new business from the rest.  All of the interview questions will be open questions to allow the respondent to give as much detail as possible.  The questions will be in relation to the respondent’s background and experience and how they have got to where they are in terms of the success of their business.

The researcher will focus on the aim of the study, and how they can address respondents’ concerns. There will be a detailed consent form that will be presented to each respondent as well as a participant information sheet thoroughly explaining the reason for conducting the research and other concerns the respondents may have.  This will ensure that the principles of research ethics are upheld throughout the research gathering process.  UHI approved JISC online survey software will be used to design and analyse the survey and its responses.  Using this software will ensure that the research is conducted ethically and none of the respondents’ data will be misused.  Quantitative data will be analysed using frequency distribution and percentages.  Qualitative data will be quantified based on commonality of responses and analysed using frequency distribution.  This will further be strengthened by use of thematic discussion.  All presentations will be done using graphs and tables.

Some of the problems expected during the study may emanate from the respondents themselves, especially since they are mainly individuals who represent the business in some way.  Some might be too busy to fully give attention to all the requirements of the study and if they are currently in a position where they do not use any social media then this may limit their capability to answer some of the questions.  To overcome these challenges, respondents will be explained the benefits of participating in the survey, especially assuring them that their time is being put to good use as the data they provide will contribute to researching an actual business plan that eventually will become a functional business that can assist them with their social media marketing needs


Prepare a business feasibility report which evaluates the viability of this business idea focusing on:

  1. The Opportunity – Briefly explain the opportunity – what is the customer problem and your business idea to solve that problem, providing evidence of the benefits it will offer.
  2. The Market & The Customer – Provide a full assessment of your research into the market your product/service will serve. This should include an evaluation of the size of the market, the potential for growth, the segments within that market and forecast the likely effects of macro influences using the STEEPLE tool.

Utilising the research you have undertaken, describe the typical customer group/s for your product/service and their likely buying behaviour.

  1. The Industry – Define the industry you will compete in including a competitor analysis and assess industry attractiveness using a strategic analysis model such as the Porters 5 Forces Model. Evaluate which elements of your business idea are likely to offer you sustainable competitive advantage.
  2. Assessment of the Entrepreneurial Opportunity – Synthesise the information gathered and assess the business proposition identified (use of an opportunity analysis model may help to frame and illustrate this analysis such as the Timmons model of the Entrepreneurial Process (2007) or the Mullins (2007) Six Domains Model). You must demonstrate the financial entrepreneurial opportunity and show a developed business model.

Utilising the research undertaken, identify at least four factors which appear to be critical success factors within your chosen industry and demonstrate the key core competencies your business would require to excel in each of these areas.

  1. Conclusion – Summarise your findings and conclude on whether the business idea appears to offer a viable opportunity.
  2. Recommendations – Following the research and analysis undertaken, set out any changes which are necessary to make it a more attractive business opportunity.


Marking Checklist

Section A



Research Methodology and Plan


·        Summary and justification of secondary research methodology

·        Summary and justification of primary research methodology

·        Information on how primary research data will be analysed

·        Discussion of any problems or limitations identified

·        Use of academic sources to substantiate research methodology

·        Full detailed plan on research milestones including key dates



Section B Comments Marks

Introduction – The Opportunity

·        Clear explanation of the customer problem

·        Proposed business idea to solve problem




The Market & The Customer

The Market:

·        Full assessment of extensive and effective secondary and primary research into the market for product/service

(To include: size of market, expected growth, segments, drivers and macro influences using the STEEPLE tool)


The Customer:

·        Typical customer group/s for  product/service

·        Buying behaviour

·        Evidence of extensive and effective secondary and primary  research





The Industry

·        Clear definition and assessment of industry attractiveness

·        Competitor Analysis

·        Using of strategic analysis tool recommended

·        Evaluation of sustainable advantage






Assessment of the Entrepreneurial Opportunity

·        Identification of key Critical Success Factors  within chosen industry

·        Link to core competencies required in business to excel in each of these areas

·        Concise synthesis of information gathered

·        Critical assessment of the business proposition





Conclusion and Recommendations

·        Concise and clear summary of findings with conclusion on the potential viability of the business opportunity

·        Recommendations for changes to the business proposition to make it a more attractive and viable   opportunity.





 Ethical Approval


All work must have ethical approval before starting primary research.


MARKS will be awarded to reflect the accuracy and completeness of your ethics application

You should also include a copy of your research data in your report. This can be either in total or as a summary, whichever is most appropriate.







·        Use layout, style, tone & register appropriate to purpose throughout the work

·        Deploy graphs, tables and other non-text formats where appropriate and present in full colour in all copies of the work

·        Write in the third person, past tense throughout

·        Avoid as far as possible using actual names within the work especially in relation to data collected

·        Use the Harvard system for referencing

·        Consecutive page number on the bottom of the page throughout the document

·        Target 2000 words

·        Use 1.5 line spacing, margins of 1.5” left and 1” right side

·        Include a Contents page with page numbers for sections

·        If necessary, include a Glossary of Terms at the beginning











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