Professional doctorates have been established as key arenas for learning and research with the requirement for individuals to make both a contribution to management practise and academic knowledge. Many students on these programmes are drawn from the senior business world, for which the traditionally quantitatively focused business environment is familiar territory and, from which, we often see a natural tendency towards research that embraces the positivist approach that brings with it the familiarity of hard, measurable, results‑focused business disciplines. The insight into the academic world of ontology, epistemology and the different research approaches that form part of the learning arena of the professional doctorate provides an opportunity for students to consider the qualitative research alternative and the value of this in developing professional understanding and in making a contribution to knowledge, understanding and management praxis. This paper does not seek to critique the criteria for what constitutes “good” research or to argue against positivist research in the professional research arena per se. Our position is that critical reflexive thinking has a key part to play in research in both developing the student and in closing the loop between the approach taken to carry out the research, the research findings, the contribution to academic knowledge and how the research practically informs professional practice. Reflexive exploration we contend takes us beyond simple numerical objective measures and into the field of subjective understanding, which can be unsettling for the mindset of a traditionally positivistic organisation. It can be perceived as difficult and time consuming, and offering vague or conflicting outputs and we recognise that talk of subjectivity, bias and interpretation may seriously affect the acceptability of research in this tradition amongst business people and needs careful handling. The methodology must stand up to the scrutiny of both academic and management disciplines by producing results that both these disciplines accept and understand. The rewards, we suggest, of reflexive exploration, offer the opportunity of a privileged insight into workforce behaviours and motivations that are not often articulated and recognised in the business world. Within this paper we draw upon hermeneutics and critical discourse analysis highlighting the role of critical reflexivity to illustrate how these qualitative research methodologies can be used to bring the academic and business worlds together.