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Journal Article

Research Methodologies and Professional Practice: Considerations and Practicalities  pp141-151

Caroline Cole, Steven Chase, Oliver Couch, Murray Clark

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

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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.


Keywords: critical reflexivity, hermeneutics, critical discourse analysis, qualitative research, research into professional practice


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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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