Developing research questions - A practical guide for PhD research by Anand Rama, Lead Research Consultant at Thesis Clinic

As I reflect on the massive review of literature that I undertook to frame my research questions, my reviews basically concentrated on three major theoretical domains. The first of these domains was focused on cultural diversity in multicultural teams (MCTs) . The second of these domains looked in the process of knowledge sharing in teams/ MCTs . The third domain focuses on characteristics of Indians societal, business and team contexts . A research gap that focuses on all domains of literature reviewed was the lack of systematic research focusing on impact of cultural diversity on the knowledge sharing process from lived-in emic experiences of Indian professionals who have worked in MCTs. In recent years , India , among the transitional economies ,emerged  as an attractive global business destination.The information technology (IT) and Information technology Enabled services (ITES) sector in India has witnessed a Phenomenal growth with regard to outsourcing and offshore business.

Outsourcing  of operations to India from the United States has resulted in a gain of 15-20 percent in quality and productivity gains has also helped US banks and insurance companies to save 6-8 billion US$ between 2001 and 2004. The addressable global market for offshore IT is around 150-180 billion US$ and India now accounts for 65 percent of global .

Thus, given previously research gaps ,coupled with capitulating Indians into global business,the focus of the research as mentioned earlier gained importance. The literature review and subsequent identification of gaps gradually sharpen my focus on the major research questions of the study.These research questions were:

  1. How is diversity in the national culture in MCTs perceived by Indian team members as having an impact upon knowledge sharing in the team?

    In my analysis of literature , the concept of heterogeneity in the nationality of teams members or nations as a cultural group has been extensively researched as MCTs with regard to their impact on individuals ‘ functioning within the team or a team performance as a whole.Despite the abundance of such studies ,there were few studies that researched the impact of national cultural diversity among the team members on knowledge sharing processes in MCTs.
  2. How is diverse functional affiliations of team members perceived by Indian team members as a salient cultural group having an impact on knowledge sharing in MCTs?

    As mentioned earlier, the appeal in sackmann and Philips paper had held great intersect for me and hence I decided to explore multicultural emic identities in research. My literature also helped in narrowing down my search to functional affiliations among the team members that could be termed as a relevant cultural group. The functional diversity as conceived in our research refers to differences in nature of the task performed by members of MCTs . This question explored a functional sub-group as a cultural group whose members shared a common cultural understanding about the nature of the roles that they performed with regard to knowledge sharing and importantly how these roles would impact upon the process of knowledge sharing within MCTs.

  3. How do Indian managers cope with their multiple cultural identities with regard to the process of team knowledge sharing in MCTs.

These questions were the pivotal foundation of my research which further helped me operationalize my constructs and sampling procedures. As the focal point of my research happened to be an Indian team member of an MCT. Suitable members were considered to be Indian by virtue of (a) their birth in India (b) the completion of their basic qualifications in India for formal employment , which would necessitate spending a minimum of 20 years of their early life in India.

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