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Journal Article

Incorporating Design Science Research and Critical Research Into an Introductory Business Research Methods Course  pp119-129

John R Venable

© Sep 2011 Volume 9 Issue 2, ECRM 2011 Special issue, Editor: Ann Brown, pp87 - 197

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Research in business can address a variety of goals, including explanation or evaluation of extant business practices, development of new business practices, critiquing business practice, and examining business goals other than profit. Empirical research about extant business practices is conducted in one or both of the positivist and interpretive research paradigms. Development of new business practices, rather than simply examining existing ones, is conducted by research within the Design Science Research (DSR) paradigm. The DSR paradigm emphasises the invention, design, and development of new technologies, techniques, and methods, yet still achieving research rigour. Critically examining organisational practices and goals other than profit, such as business ethics, sustainability, and the triple bottom line, is much better conducted within the Critical Research (CR) paradigm, which critically examines the purpose, goals, and social and societal impacts of business and other practices. Unfortunately, the Introduction to Business Research Methods courses and textbooks that develop the business research community’s fledgling members’ ability to conduct, interpret, and critique and develop high quality research typically place heavy if not exclusive emphasis on positivist and interpretive research paradigms and methods at the expense of other research paradigms and methods. Such exclusive emphasis on positivist and interpretive research at the expense of other paradigms handicaps new researchers and severely limits their future ability to conduct, interpret, critique, and develop high quality research. To address this problem, this paper describes how DSR and CR have been successfully incorporated within an introductory business research methods course, which introduces students, regardless of their specific business discipline, to business research. The paper describes how it (1) deals with textbooks that have a limited perspective on business research paradigms and methods and (2) provides a needed, holistic perspective on business research, regardless of the specific discipline. To accomplish the above, the new course does four specific things. First, it situates business research as an applied discipline, along with other applied disciplines, such as medicine and engineering, and in contrast to non‑applied disciplines, such as physics or psychology. Second, it includes a key new framework that contrasts the assumptions and perspectives of different research paradigms, including business research knowledge goals, the role of values in research, and epistemological issues. Third, it modifies and extends frameworks and figures from a popular business research methods textbook to supplement the limited perspective of the textbook with alternative research goals and paradigms. Fourth, the new course adds relevant introductory readings. The paper presents these extensions to the course, including how and where they are included within the course presentation, materials, and assessments, as a model for others wishing to enhance their introductory business research methods courses.


Keywords: business research, research methods, design science research, critical research, curriculum design, teaching


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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 2, ECRM 2011 Special issue / Sep 2011  pp87‑197

Editor: Ann Brown

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The subject of research methods in business is showing an extra‑ordinary level of activity and innovation and this conference (the 10th European Conference on Research Methods in Business and Management) reflected this. These papers dealt with the problems facing management researchers in a variety of ways. Many Papers offer help in applying new methods such as Mixed Methods and Design Science and introduce new ideas such the use of visual imagery as stimuli in research interviews. The final selection of papers was agreed by the senior editor of the Journal and the guest editors. The comments of session chairs were taken into account in making the final selection of papers for this issue of the EJBRM. The papers selected were chosen for their quality of writing, their relevance to the Journal’s objective of publishing papers that offer new insights or practical help in the application of research methods in business research and the degree of innovation in the subject matter.

The chosen Papers

Two papers constitute a useful introduction to mixed methods – one used case examples to illustrate the potential value of the method (Stefan Cronholm and Anders Hjalmarsson) and one assessed the challenges facing the researcher who opts for this approach.(Roslyn Cameron)

Design Science seems to be acquiring more supporters – particularly for research into Information technology. One paper explains the technique illustrating with a detailed description of an ongoing study (Carcary). The paper by Venables suggests that few research methods courses currently include this method.

The conference received a surprisingly large number of papers on the teaching of research methods and on Project Management. This issue includes three papers on teaching research methods. One addressed the issue of the expanding range of research methods available to business researchers and proposed a framework that would help teachers to introduce the full set of options (Venables). A growing trend is that of doctoral candidates coming forward from industry and the professions. Two papers offer some extremely valuable ideas on how supervisors can support the special needs of this group of doctoral candidates – One paper argues for choosing research methods that specifically exploits this experience for the empirical research work (Caroline Cole, Steven Chase, Oliver Couch and Murray Clark). The other paper offers a framework that could help such students to work through the bewildering first few steps in the research journey that often proves too confusing and time consuming for mature candidates (Rahinah Ibrahim). The papers on Project Management while of great interest to managers tended to focus on Project Management issues rather than research methods. However one paper identified the lack of research support for the existing sets of Project Management standards produced by the professional societies (BoK) and discussed the implications.(Miles Shepherd and Roger Atkinson)

An interesting paper presents a visual technique, infographics to aid interviewers in the elicitation of relevant experiences from interview subjects (Robert Campbell, Gillian Green and Mark Grimshaw ). Pearse contributed an unusual paper on the Likert scale. This is widely used but at low levels of granularity (no of scales) and this paper presents research suggesting that we should consider using a much wider range of scales.

The PhD paper that won the award for best PhD paper was by Nicola Swan. This dealt with the problems faced by researchers collecting data in the emerging countries where facilities and attitudes differ markedly from the developed countries.

I would like to thank the help given in the reviewing of the papers from the conference from Marian Carcary, Marie Ashwin, Martin Rich, Roslyn Cameron, Gill Green, Gary Bell and John Warwick.

Ann Brown

September 2011.


Keywords: body of knowledge; business research; case study; certification; critical reflexivity; critical discourse analysis; critical research; curriculum design; design science research; dissertation; eagle table; graduate study; graphic elicitation; hermeneutics; inductive profession; inter-disciplinary; IS; IT CMF; knowledge representation; likert scale; maturity models; method combinations; mixed approaches; mixed methods; paradigms; pragmatism; publishing; qualitative methods; qualitative research; quantitative methods; questionnaire design; research design; research framework; research into professional practice; research methodology; research methods; research proposal design; scale construction; scale granularity infographics; teaching design science; teaching research methods


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