5.4: The research process: Sampling, interviewing and document analysis
This section will explore the methods used to gather data during this research project. First, the sampling process including descriptions of the organisations and participants that were selected for the research and the process of making contact with participants will be explored. Following this, interviewing methodology, transcription and coding will be described. The final subsection will describe the other types of data sources that were utilised and how each contributed to the overall analysis.
5.4.1: Getting started: Gathering the sample of participants and making contact
As stated above, this research is derived from an interpretive epistemology and is chiefly concerned with participants’ perceptions of the positive and negative impact, in particular social impact, derived from FDI to India. From the outset, it was anticipated that the research was likely to provide a complex picture of the advantages and disadvantages that FDI has brought to India. Interviewing participants in India was deemed the most appropriate method to use as opposed to relying solely on documents or statistical analysis concerning FDI flows to India. Such statistical reports can be difficult to obtain and difficult to interpret (Atkinson and Coffey, 2004). As this study is largely concerned with the social impact of FDI, it was helpful and even necessary to access this information from participants as statistical reports for FDI do not facilitate the analysis of the social consequences derived from FDI inflows.
New Delhi, India was chosen as the location to conduct interviews. New Delhi is the capital of India and is the second largest city for attracting FDI within the country. New Delhi houses India’s major universities, both international and national NGOs, IGOs, policy making organisations, research organisations, as well as the headquarters for India’s major trade unions and business associations. New Delhi appeared to be able to provide easy access to the array of these institutions. The fieldwork took place from October 2011 to March 2012.
It was decided that this research would tap the expertise, knowledge and opinions of experts and activists in the field of social and economic development as these participants could provide the level of analysis and insight concerning the impact of FDI that was needed for this project. The research design targeted information from participants to establish an explanatory focus with descriptions and analysis from a sociological and macroeconomic standpoint. A wider sociological perspective was the focus as opposed to individual experience, for example, individuals’ experiences of working for TNCs. Furthermore, experts and activists from economic and social development organisations posed the safest option for ethical considerations concerning participation in face to face interviews. For example, it was decided that contact with employees of call centres, manufacturing plants or subcontract units in global value chains such as garment sectors could place unnecessary scrutiny and harassment from managers, thus, placing job security and/or personal safety in jeopardy. Also, obtaining access to this type of participant sample could prove more difficult than experts within high profile development organisations.
Internet searches were conducted to identify and locate organisations that specialise in economic development, social development and human rights issues. Keywords used in the internet searches for potential agencies included: ‘social and economic development’, ‘globalisation’, ‘development and empowerment’, ‘economic and social policy recommendation’, ‘public policy and development’, and ‘labour market protection’ to name a few. These keywords were combined with ‘organisation’ and ‘New Delhi’ to locate possible organisations. A search containing the words ‘labour market protection’ and ‘organisation’ and ‘New Delhi’, for example, produced a listing for the ILO and the Institute for Human Development, two promising and potential organisations very relevant to my research aims.
A list of possible participants was compiled. For some participants, I was aware and familiar with his/her research or activism through my literature review. For example, one Professor is an internationally renowned activist for children’s rights. Another participant is a lawyer and leading activist that has been involved in several high profile campaigns and litigation battles against pharmaceutical TNCs for access to Indian generic medications. While I was aware of some participants through the literature review, other participants were located by finding the organisation, as described above, first and then looking at the employees and their research expertise.
The list of participants and the organisations from which they are employed is provided in the Appendix (see Appendix Two). Appendix Two is presented as a table. The first column provides fictitious initials for the participant. The second column describes his/her area of employment and/or research expertise. The third column provides a number for the organisation and the fourth column describes the type of organisation. The fifth column categorises the theoretical orientation and the sixth column provides a description of the organisation. To provide anonymity for the participants the names of the organisations are not provided and the descriptions included in the table do not contain verbatim descriptions of the organisations from their websites. This was done because general descriptions of the interviewees’ area of expertise are included in the empirical chapters and providing both the area of expertise as well as the identity of the organisation could possibly compromise the identity of participants.
Types of organisations contacted include universities, NGOs/INGOs, business associations, research institutions, policy research organisations, IGOs and international medical aid organisations. As I wanted to gather data concerning both the social and economic impact of FDI, different types of organisations were contacted. Some organisations had a clear theoretical orientation towards a liberal market perspective, others were aligned with human rights issues and perspectives and some organisations contained elements of both types of orientations. Accordingly, organisations are categorised in the Appendix as ‘human rights’, ‘liberal market’ or ‘both’. For example, an organisation such as the Asian Development Bank (not contacted) would be categorised as ‘liberal market’ whereas Save the Children (not contacted) would be categorised as ‘human rights’. Organisations that house both orientations are categorised as ‘both’; universities would fall into this category. I wanted to interview participants from both human rights and liberal market perspectives to try and gain a balanced perspective. In my sample of twenty-four organisations, fifteen are categorised as ‘human rights’, four are ‘liberal market’ and five are ‘both’. Regarding the forty participants used in this sample: eight are from liberal market orientations, twenty are from human rights oriented organisations and twelve are from organisations that have both perspectives.
The participants contacted and subsequently interviewed could be considered elite interviews. Seldon (1988) describes elite interviews as those conducted with particular individuals because of whom they are, the information they have access to and the position they occupy which differs to interviews conducted with individuals more typical of the case study population at large. For Bozoki (2002), elite members are often those with close proximity to power; those who decide on, or influence the policy making process. Bozoki (2002) observes that elites have positional or reputational status and have participated or are still participating in certain and significant situations of interest. Although no interviews were obtained with current Indian government officials or civil servants, individuals and organisations that work closely within the policy-making process were targeted. For example, individuals who have worked for or are working within IGOs that engage closely with policymakers were selected. Several participants held elite positions within these organisations including one participant who was a former member of the Indian Administrative Service and held a high ranking position in the Government of Rajasthan. He previously held elevated positions within the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Department for Technical Cooperation and Development and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation to name but a few. Another participant is a Director of one of India’s national business associations and serves as a consultant with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Another participant helped the government to construct the investment policies for FDI in the retail sector as well as the policies for special economic zones in India. Her research is recognised as instrumental to India’s negotiating strategies in the WTO and bilateral agreements. Due to the respondents’ high level of expertise and proximity to policy-making in India that has been achieved through their research and/or activism, the sample of participants are referred to in the research questions as ‘elite policy stakeholders’. Interviews with elite policy stakeholders in the area of social and economic development were invaluable in understanding the impact FDI is having on India’s development process as well as accessing information and opinions concerning policy construction, policy problems, and how investment strategies as well as policy implementation could better minimise risk and maximise potential benefit for India and its citizens.
The study utilised purposive sampling. Oliver (2008) remarks a purposive sample is targeted when the researcher identifies certain respondents as being potentially able to deliver significant data and insight on the research topic. Oliver (2008, p.110) elaborates that purposive samples can be particularly useful when:
...the researcher is seeking respondents who are both articulate and who wish to help with the research. On the other hand the purposive sampling process may seek to identify people, who, because of their experience or contacts, have special insights into the research question.
A criticism of the purposive sample is the element of subjectivity that is introduced into the design as the researcher is “forming a view as to the preferred characteristics of respondents” (Oliver, 2008, p. 110). It can be argued that using purposive samples limits the generalizability of research findings in comparison to other probability samples as participants that are sought may have similar backgrounds, interests and outlooks (Oliver 2008). However, a probability sample most likely would not have yielded the level of in depth, rich data concerning FDI that was needed for this project.
The majority of participants and contacts were obtained from personal investigation of experts in the field. However, a snowball sampling technique was also utilised as a complementary strategy for attaining interviews. Snowball sampling, referred to by some researchers as chain referral sampling, is a method of sampling sometimes used in qualitative sociological research (Berg, 2004). This method is a type of non-probability sampling technique which can help researchers locate hard-to-reach populations (Atkinson and Flint, 2001). Of the 40 interviews conducted, the use of the snowball technique helped to arrange approximately twelve of the interviews. At the conclusion of interviews, I sometimes asked participants if he/she could suggest someone in the field of social and economic development that may be interested in speaking with me. However, I often did not ask interviewees for referrals as I felt it would ‘be asking too much’ and I simply thanked them for their time. Often interviewees would suggest organisations— rather than particular people— that specialize in development issues. However, at times specific names were provided by participants along with the organisation to which he/she is employed. In these instances, I proceeded to conduct an internet search of the suggested researcher and/or organisation to determine if I agreed with the appropriateness of the suggestion and make contact accordingly.
There are advantages and disadvantages to employing a snowball sampling technique. It is a time and cost efficient means to gain more contacts by enabling the researcher to take advantage of the social networks of identified participants. Atkinson and Flint (2001) explicate that snowball sampling can be particularly helpful in gaining access to elite populations. In trying to arrange interviews with elite researchers and policy stakeholders with very busy schedules, I did feel more confident in my written correspondence to potential participants when I was able to mention the name of a colleague who had recommended that I contact him/her. On several occasions, I e-mailed potential contacts multiple times without receiving a response of acceptance or decline. However, for all of participants that I contacted via snowball sampling, I did receive a response either indicating that she/he could or could not take part (not everyone could take part due to time constraints or travelling commitments). In comparison to the list of participants I contacted without a referral, the snowball sampling method did ensure that I heard back from the contact.
However, there are drawbacks to using the snowball sampling method. The researcher has much less control over the sampling method as he/she is dependent upon the referrals made by previous participants (Berg, 2004). With snowball sampling there is no guarantee that the sample obtained is representative of the larger population of study (Berg, 2004; Atkinson and Flint, 2001). In fact, Atkinson and Flint (2001) argue that snowball sampling violates the principles of research sampling. As participants tend to refer individuals that they know well, it becomes highly feasible that the participants nominated will have similar traits, characteristics, beliefs and perceptions. When this occurs, selection bias can result and limit the validity and generalizability of the findings (Griffiths et al, 1993).
In the sample used for this thesis, as stated above, the majority of participants were contacted through my research and initiation. However, for the twelve respondents who were obtained via snowball, it must be assumed that there is a level of sampling bias which can influence the validity of these findings. The sample of participants did share similar ethnicities, socioeconomic status and other identifying characteristics that can impact the research process. Their positionality as well as my own will be explored in an upcoming section (section 5.5).
One advantage of having high profile researchers as participants was that they were easy to identify and contact as their research interests and contact details were in the public domain of their organisation or university websites. After compiling a list of possible participants, initial contact was made via e-mail. Correspondence explained the research project, aims and why it was felt his/her input could make a valuable contribution to the research. Bozoki (2002) argues that conducting interviews with elites requires more preparation as the level of information exchange will most likely be in depth. Given this, the content of the invitation e-mails was personalised to each participant and tied his/her publication(s)/research or area of expertise to the overall research aims. A letter of support composed by my supervisor briefly stating the research aim, requesting and thanking participants for individual contribution as well as confirmation that ethical clearance was obtained was attached to each e-mail correspondence. The e-mail thanked the participant for the opportunity to interview him/her and requested details concerning time and place most convenient for him/her.
Having described how the sample of participants was constructed and contacted, the proceeding subsection will explore the interview, transcription and coding processes.
5.4.2: Interviewing, transcription and coding
As stated above, the process of interviewing was deemed the most appropriate methodology to explore and answer my research questions. Other types of methods such as questionnaires, for example, would not have worked as well as this research was looking for in depth responses and face to face interviews are an effective method for this type of data collection (Silverman, 2005; Fielding and Thomas, 2008). Furthermore, questionnaires would not have allowed for follow up questions whereas qualitative interviews afforded this opportunity.
There are two main types of interviewing methodology: standardised and non-standardised (Silverman, 2005). Standardised or structured interviews are conducted to ensure each interview is conducted exactly the same with the same questions presented in the same order (Silverman, 2005). However, with non-standardised interviewing, it is not necessary to ask the same questions and the format can take the form of a discussion whereby the interviewer directs the interview by identifying topical questions and allows the interviewee to discuss them more extensively (Silverman, 2005). Fielding and Thomas (2008) argue that non-standardised approach is best suited when the subject matter is dense and complex as the technique enables researchers to ‘fine tune’ the interview format to attune it to the varying levels of comprehension and array of insight provided by participants. Standardised interviewing would not have been an appropriate method for my sample population as participants had different fields of expertise and a more flexible interviewing technique allowed further access in eliciting the rich and detailed information.
Semi-structured and focused interview methods are types of non-standardised interviewing (Fielding and Thomas, 2008). During the initial stages of my fieldwork, interviews were semi-structured and became closer to focused interviews in the latter stages of the interviewing process. Fielding and Thomas (2008, p. 247) describe focused interviews in the following manner:
Here interviewers simply have a list of topics which they want the respondent to talk about, but are free to phrase the questions as they wish, ask them in any order that seems sensible at the time, and even join in by discussing what they think of the topic themselves.
I attempted to maintain a balance between semi-structured and focused interviews by exploring certain topics with all interviewees and allow the interview to become more focused or unstructured at times to tap varying levels of individual expertise.
One criticism of non-standardised interviews is that validity and reliability of data may be comprised due to interviewer bias (Fielding and Thomas, 2008). As will be discussed in the upcoming section regarding positionality (see section 5.6), I felt more comfortable in some interviews in comparison to others. Here the use of non-standardised interviews may impact the data gathering process. In the interviews where I felt more comfortable, I may have engaged more in the interview and asked more clarifying questions. Utilising a non-standardised interview format may have caused me to gather more detailed responses in certain interviews in comparison with others.
Burnham et al. (2004) stress that one difficulty with interviewing is conducting too many interviews and suggest that 20-30 is a sufficient and reasonable amount where interviewing is the primary method employed. In total, 40 interviews from twenty-four organisations were conducted within the time of the fieldwork. Upon reflection, 30 interviews would have most likely been sufficient as the transcription and data analysis was daunting with 40 interviews. Furthermore much rich and valuable information from respondents simply could not be utilised in the empirical chapters due to length and word constraints. The interview process came to a conclusion towards the end of the fieldwork in New Delhi when ‘data saturation’ had been met and it was concluded that sufficient data had been collected for the research aims (Lincoln and Guba, 1985, p350).
All interviews except two were audio recorded using a small digital voice recording device. Although ethical concerns will be explored below, it is worth noting here that all interviewees’ permission was sought prior to using the recording device in the interview. Recording the interviews enabled more effective active listening to take place as the concern with writing notes and documenting phrases verbatim was, for the majority of interviews, not needed. Also, as Fielding and Thomas (2008) argue, note taking opens concerns and doubts regarding validity. Respondents were informed that transcriptions would be shared upon request to confirm accuracy although none of the participants requested copies of transcriptions. Audio recording also enabled verbatim transcriptions of the interviews. Fielding and Thomas (2008, p. 257) distinguish between selective transcription and verbatim transcription and note that verbatim transcriptions allow for all possible analytical investigation however, this technique is often time consuming. Verbatim transcriptions were conducted using Windows Media Player and headphones on a laptop computer.
Upon completion of the transcription process, a progression of what Lofland et al. (2006) terms initial coding occurred whereby categories and themes began to emerge from transcriptions. Initially, a summary of each respondent’s transcription with themes and key words and phrases were recorded in a notebook. As each transcription was completed, a reflection back on other themes and key words from other transcriptions was conducted. This initial coding allowed for a viewing of all chronological transcriptions and a comparing and contrasting of initial themes and key words that were highlighted. From the process of initial coding, the stage of focused coding began (Lofland et al, 2006). At this stage, computer software NVivo 9 was used to assist with the process of coding and analysis. NVivo 9 was chosen as the university offered a software download for free. The software enabled all of the data to be stored and managed relatively easily on the computer.
However, there are questions as to the degree to which such programs shape the analysis process. Mason (2002) observes that computer aided analysis software promotes cross sectional indexing or coding as opposed to a more holistic analysis. NVivo 9 did facilitate the construction of ‘nodes’ or codes under which quotes are stored. This can fragment the data as coded segments of data can become detached or isolated from the larger context. The software does allow for an expansion of a quote so that a viewing of the wider context can be seen. It also allows for the entire transcription to be opened. Viewing the specific quote and the wider context was done throughout the analysis to ensure the context of the quotes was not lost.
The proceeding subsection will explain the additional methods of data gathering that were used in this research.
5.4.3: Multimethod approach: Utilising documents and secondary interviews
In addition to interviews, this study utilised document and content analysis. Mixed method research involves the use of two or more research methods in a single research project (Alexander et al, 2008). This can mean that the research has both qualitative and quantitative components, two or more styles of data collection and/or two or means of analysis have been employed (Alexander et al., 2008). For this project, multiple data sources were used, specifically, investment policies, Indian investment bureaux and interview transcripts from broadcast media. All of these additional sources were analysed to contextualise and reveal different dimensions of the research questions as well as to complement and expand the interview analysis. For this study, the additional data sources were largely analysed after the interview fieldwork in India although a cursory analysis of some documents occurred alongside the interview fieldwork. I will briefly describe all three.
The documents that were analysed were IGO reports and Indian government documents, investment reports and policies. A complete list of the documents used is listed in Appendix 1. Examples of IGO reports include: multiple years of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development World Investment Report, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report (2012-2013; 2014-2015), World Bank’s Doing Business: India 2015. IGO reports provided insight into levels of foreign investment, specific concerns to both developing and developed countries and policy issues concerning global flows of FDI. IGO documents were easy to access and easy to decipher and were fairly self-explanatory.
Examples of Indian state government documents that were analysed include Twelfth Five Year Plan; Consolidated FDI Policy, 2013; National Manufacturing Policy, 2011 (Press Note 2, 2011 Series) and Foreign Direct Investment in Multi-Brand Retail Trading Sector (Press Note 5, 2012 Series). Atkinson and Coffee (2004, p.72) stress that while government documents may be written in an accessible language, they are composed for a selective audience or ‘restricted readership’ for those with government policy competencies and, thus, may not be easy to decode for those outside this particular readership. The Indian government FDI reports and policies were predominantly written in English and somewhat self-explanatory but not as easy to understand or as descriptive as the IGO reports that were utilised. Government reports such as the Fact Sheet on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) illustrate the top countries investing in India as well as the top sectors attracting the highest levels of FDI. Such information was helpful in addressing the first part of the second research question regarding the types of FDI India is attracting.
Investment policies such as the National Manufacturing Policy, 2011 and Foreign Direct Investment in Multi-Brand Retail Trading Sector were also analysed to investigate the first research question (see section 5.2) regarding investment strategies and the implications to social welfare that are likely to flow from these strategies. These two polices are good examples of the government’s investment strategies and reveal the differences in how service sector investment and manufacturing investment is being sought. Specifically the social protections that are implemented in the policies will be explored along with interview data to reveal what social policies may be needed to protect citizens and workers. India’s main development plan, the Twelfth Five Year Plan was used to explore to what extent and how FDI configures into its development plans. This was particularly helpful as I was unable to interview current government officials whilst in India (see section 5.8).
Content from India’s investment bureaux were explored for this research. As discussed in Chapter Three (see section 3.7) countries compete for FDI and promote investment opportunities to foreign investors through investment bureaux. Similar to other countries India has several investment bureaux that it uses to sell itself to foreign investors. These bureaux were analysed to afford understanding into India’s investment strategies and provide insight into the first research question: How is India selling itself to investors and what are the possible implications for social welfare that are likely to flow from the Indian government’s investment strategy? Investment bureaux such as ‘Invest in India’ are easy to access, the website are up-to-date and user friendly. Such websites give a good indication of prevailing investment conditions and serve to illustrate the type of investment India is seeking as well as what the Indian government is offering investors in return for their investment. What the government promises to investors can be analysed to investigate the possible implications for social welfare that are likely to arise from investment strategies.
Finally, interviews from one of India’s major media broadcast television networks, New Delhi TV (NDTV), were accessed from their website, viewed and selectively transcribed as well. Approximately 18 videos of interviews from NDTV were watched and selectively transcribed. NDTV often conduct interviews with prominent business leaders as well as government officials from the Planning Committee which construct India’s development initiatives. For example, interviews concerning policy issues were often conducted with a panel of policymakers, business leaders and various stakeholders and watching these helped to provide deeper comprehension into policy analysis and highlighted specific stakeholder concerns. Interviews with international business associations such as the US-India Business Council provided further awareness of business policy preferences as well as a business perspective and assessment of their impact on the economy and local communities.