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Journal Article

Organizational Inquiry as a Rhetorical Process: The Role of Tropes in Organizational Theory and Methods  pp46-62

Sandy Green, C. Murat Alpaslan, Ian Mitroff

© Sep 2010 Volume 8 Issue 1, Editor: Ann Brown, pp1 - 62

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Abstract

We develop a discursive understanding of organizational inquiry in order to challenge the status quo characterized by a positivistic approach to organizational inquiry. Specifically, we reconceptualize organizational science as an inherently rhetorical process. We propose that the language of theories and methods used within a particular paradigm move from figurative to literal and back to figurative, following a distinctive topological sequence from metaphor to metonymy to synecdoche to irony. We also link the researchers use of four master tropes to particular types of scientific reasoning as well as to particular types of scientific tools. We discuss the research implications of the rhetorical model of organizational science.

 

Keywords: rhetoric, positivism, semiotics, theory, method

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 8 Issue 1 / Sep 2010  pp1‑62

Editor: Ann Brown

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Editorial

This Journal publishes papers that offer new insights into or practical help with the application of research methods applied to business organizations. The five papers in this issue offer the management researcher help and support with an eclectic mixture of topics relating to the application of existing tools and methods.

They are of an impressive quality testifying to the continuing intense interest in the research process as it is applied to business organizations. The wide range of topics demonstrates the current extraordinary dynamism in this subject as researchers grapple with the epistemological problems inherent in the various methodologies that are currently being applied to business research.

The paper by Alexandrov give an in depth analysis of existing measures, drawing on empirical work to support their recommendations. Alexandrov gives researchers an excellent assessment of the Likert scale‑ its strengths and weaknesses and a guide to how and when to use it. Interestingly the paper by Lawrence also addresses SME operations, this time with respect to the reasons for using or not using the Internet. This paper offers a detailed description of an empirical study using a grounded theory methodology which sought to explain the reasons for adoption or non adoption. The value for management researchers lies in the careful description of the empirical work and the evaluation of its quality using criteria established for interpretivist research. The fourth paper to draw on empirical work is that by Johl and Renganathan. This paper offers the researcher valuable insights into the effects of taking different approaches to obtaining access to case sites.

The paper by Berard critiques existing literature on the building and application of Systems Dynamics models. Of the two main approaches for developing such models by individual experts or by groups composed of both experts in the technique and individuals knowledgeable about the situation being modeled, she focuses on the group approach. Her critique of the literature establishes an excellent template for good practice. Any group setting out to build an SD model would be well advised to read this paper closely.

The paper by Green et al is theoretical and addresses a subject of key importance to all management researchers. The authors develop a fascinating argument as to the inconsistencies of the scientific method especially when applied to organizational research. They dispute the prevailing view that theory and methodology can be independent under any circumstances and would argue that theories are the creation of us the current community of researchers  As they propose an organizational truth produced by organizational science provides far more insight into what is persuasive to organizational scholars and their audiences, than it does into the features of organizations that scientists anthropomorphically deemed salient  As researchers of business organizations, we are all affected by the dominant community views more than we may like to accept.

Ann Brown
September, 2010

 

Keywords: case study, decision-making scenarios, ethnography, fieldwork, gaining access, gatekeepers, group model building, interpretive research, IS evaluation, Likert scale, marketing priority, methodological frameworks, mixed method, modelling process, negatively-worded items, performance measures, positivism, reversed items, rhetoric, semiotics theory, single-item measures, system dynamics, systematic analysis

 

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