The quality and nature of business and management research methods and the practical value of the results achieved (Coldwell)
The scale and nature of the ethical responsibility of organizations, researchers and students (Lindorff, Naimi)
The training and supervision of doctoral candidates (Iqbal)
Coldwell argues that although truly causally adequate explanation is beyond the capacity of social science and management research and that adequate explanation on the level of meaning also is, at best, problematical, nonetheless it is possible to adopt a methodological approach that is capable of producing practically useable research outcomes. He proposes a methodology based on critical realism and offers considerable help in the practical steps to be taken when following this approach.
Two papers consider ethical issues in business research and teaching (Lindorff, Naimi). Lindorff is concerned with researchers’ ethical obligations to participants in their research. She presents a fairly bleak view of current practice, contrasting the comparatively indifferent attitude of almost all published business research with the central role that ethical practice takes within medical and psychology research methods literature. Her view that business researchers lack training on this aspect of research is neatly met by Naimi’s paper. This paper argues that we live in a cheating culture and claims that there has been a decline in ethical conduct and “right thinking” in society today. It proposes that universities need to incorporate modules on ethics into their degree courses and suggests some of the topics that such courses might include.
Iqbal provides a road map for the process of writing a suitable doctoral proposal. He is particularly concerned with the range of choices facing the new candidate at each step of the proposal. He offers a structured approach for navigating these decisions based on his own experience.
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.