Qualitative Organizational Research: Core Methods and Current Challenges


Gillian Symon & Catherine Cassell

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  • Front Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: The Issues and Challenges of Qualitative Inquiry in Organizational Research

    Part II: Core Methods of Qualitative Inquiry in Organizational Research

  • Copyright

    Notes on Contributors

    Eva A. Alfoldi is a Lecturer in International Business at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Her research focuses on multinational subsidiary management, knowledge transfer and research methods in international business. She received her PhD from the University of Leeds where she was the recipient of a Society for the Advancement of Management Studies (SAMS) scholarship. She is currently working on publications from her thesis as well as on new projects, targeting journals such as the Journal of Management Studies, Management International Review, the Journal of World Business and the British Educational Research Journal. She has a strong focus on developing and delivering innovative materials for qualitative research methods teaching. She was born in Hungary and now lives and works in Manchester.

    Mats Alvesson is Professor of Business Administration at the University of Lund, Sweden, and at the University of Queensland Business School, Australia. He is also a Visiting Professor at Exeter University. His research interests include critical theory, gender, power, management of professional service (knowledge intensive) organizations, leadership, identity, organizational image, organizational culture and symbolism, qualitative methods and philosophy of science. Recent books include Theory Development and Qualitative Research (Sage, 2011, with Dan Kärreman), Interpreting Interviews (Sage, 2011), Metaphors We Lead By: Understanding Leadership in the Real World (Routledge, 2011, edited with Andre Spicer), Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies (Oxford University Press, 2009, edited with Todd Bridgman and Hugh Willmott), Understanding Gender and Organizations (Sage, 2009, 2nd edn, with Yvonne Billing), Reflexive Methodology (Sage, 2009, 2nd edn, with Kaj Sköldberg), Changing Organizational Culture (Routledge, 2008, with Stefan Sveningsson), and Knowledge Work and Knowledge-Intensive Firms (Oxford University Press, 2004).

    Karen Lee Ashcraft is a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, and an Associate Editor for Human Relations. Her research examines organizational forms and occupational identities, with a particular emphasis on gender and race relations. Her work has appeared in such venues as Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal, Communication Theory and Communication Monographs. Her co-authored book with Dennis Mumby, Reworking Gender, received the 2004 Book of the Year Award from the Organizational Communication Division of the National Communication Association.

    Matthew J. Brannan is a lecturer in Management at the School of Management at Keele University. He has also held a post at the Centre for Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester. His research focuses upon the growth of the service sector and the contemporary experience of work using ethnographic techniques to gain an immersive insight into the world of work. His work has included the use of role play in call centre recruitment and selection processes, the engagement of workers' sexuality in customer service environments, the career path of female junior managers and employee branding.

    David A. Buchanan is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Cranfield University School of Management, specializing in change management, change agency and organization politics. He has a Doctorate in Organizational Behaviour from Edinburgh University and is the author/co-author of over two dozen books, one of which has been a bestseller since 1985: Organizational Behaviour (FT Prentice Hall, 2010, 7th edn, with Andrzej Huczynski). He is co-editor (with Alan Bryman) of The Sage Handbook of Organizational Research Methods (2009) and has written numerous book chapters, papers and articles on organizational behaviour, change and research methods. Current projects include a study of the realities of management in healthcare and managing change in extreme contexts – including incidents that adversely affect patient safety in hospital.

    Catherine Cassell is Professor of Organizational Psychology at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, where she heads up the School's People, Management and Organizations Division. Catherine has spent many years working with Gillian Symon on promoting the use of qualitative methods in organizational, management and work psychology research, and this is their fourth edited book for Sage on this topic. They also jointly edit Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal. Catherine's research interests are in the areas of organizational learning, change and fairness at work. She is an Associate Editor of the British Journal of Management and also edits their Methodology Corner.

    Timothy Clark is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Durham Business School, Durham University. In the last decade he has conducted a series of research projects into consultancy work and speaker–audience interaction during management guru lectures. The publications emanating from these projects include Critical Consulting: New Perspectives on the Management Advice Industry (Blackwell, 2002, with Robin Fincham), Management Speak (Routledge, 2005, with David Greatbatch) and most recently Management Consultancy: Knowledge and Boundaries in Action (Oxford, 2008, with Andrew Sturdy, Robin Fincham and Karen Handley). He is currently working on a multidisciplinary project examining the emergence and nature of ‘Tipping Points’.

    Laurie Cohen is Professor of Organization Studies and Director of the Centre for Professional Work and Careers at the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University. Her research interests include changing careers of professional workers, careers in emerging forms of organization and research methods in the study of career, focusing in particular on interpretive approaches and the use of narrative. Her work has been supported by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy. Laurie has published in a wide range of international journals, including Human Relations, Organization Studies, Organization, Work, Employment and Society, Journal of Vocational Behaviour and the Journal of Management Inquiry, as well as contributing chapters to many edited collections. She is also on the editorial boards of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, Human Relations Journal of Management Inquiry and Management Learning.

    Joep Cornelissen is Professor of Communication and Organization Theory at VU University Amsterdam and the University of Leeds. He has taught courses on communication, strategic change and organization theory at universities across Europe. His much-loved textbook, Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice, was published in its third edition in March 2011, fully revised, extended and updated to take into account recent developments in strategic and corporate communication. Besides his writing and teaching commitments, Joep is also an active researcher within the fields of communication and management and a general editor for the Journal of Management Studies. His own current research focuses on the role of framing and narration in strategic change, entrepreneurial and innovation contexts.

    Joanne Duberley is a Reader in Organization Studies at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham. Her recent research interests focus upon the study of careers in a wide variety of settings including academic scientists, self-employed women and NHS managers. She also maintains an interest in the philosophical underpinnings of management research.

    Hanna Gajewska-de Mattos is Lecturer in Business Development in Emerging Markets at the Centre for International Business University of Leeds (CIBUL). She was a European Union Phare ACE Scholar at the University of Leeds from which she obtained her doctorate. She was also a Foundation for Management Education Research Officer in CIBUL and she worked on International S&T Cooperation Policy issues in the Director General for Research in the European Commission. Her current research interests centre on the role of cultural distance within international management relationships, the role of language in international business, qualitative research methodology and pedagogy in international business.

    David Greatbatch is a Visiting Professor at Durham Business School, Durham University. He specializes in video-based studies of social interaction in organizational settings, drawing on conversation analysis and ethnomethodology. He has undertaken research in a wide variety of contexts including management consultancy, live corporate events, broadcast journalism, general practice and telemedicine. He has also published articles in journals such as the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Language in Society, Human Relations, Leadership Quarterly and Law and Society Review. He co-authored Management Speak (Routledge, 2005, with Timothy Clark) and is currently completing a book on the social organization of conflict talk in family mediation sessions.

    Kathryn Haynes is Northern Society Professor of Accounting and Finance at Newcastle University Business School. Previously she worked at Aston Business School and the University of York. She is also an Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Services Fellow. Her research interests include identity and its relationship with gender; the body and embodiment within organizations; the juxtaposition of professional and personal identities; social and environmental accounting; sustain-ability and responsibility; issues of governance and accountability; and the conduct of the professions and professional services firms. She is also interested in reflexive research methodologies, including narrative, autoethnography, oral history and ethnography. Kathryn is associate editor of the International Journal of Management Reviews and Gender, Work and Organization.

    Robin Holt is a Professor at the University of Liverpool Management School. He has enjoyed a serpentine academic career, working in departments of politics and philosophy as well as business and management, and at a number of universities. Throughout he has been interested in basic questions of meaning associated with words such as value, production, knowledge, good and wealth, and continues to be curious about these, currently through research work on judgement, on entrepreneurial activity and on strategic practice.

    Merlijn van Hulst was trained in cultural anthropology at Utrecht University and received his PhD from Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Currently, he is Assistant Professor at the Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration. He is interested in the role of sensemaking in (local) governance and specializes in interpretive methods. His current research includes an analysis of storytelling in police practices, the work of excellent practitioners in neighbourhood governance and the concept of framing in policy analysis.

    Michael Humphreys is Professor of Organization Studies at Nottingham University Business School. His current research interests include: studies of organizational identity, narrative and change, innovation and improvisation in teams, public sector management and qualitative research methodology. He has published in a range of journals including the Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, HumanRelations, Organization, the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, the British Journal of Management and Public Administration. He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies and the Journal of Vocational Education and Training.

    Phil Johnson is currently Professor of Organization Studies and Head of the OB/HRM Division at the Management School, Sheffield University. His research interests include methodologies and epistemologies in organization studies as well as current developments in HRM praxis and organizational forms.

    Binna Kandola OBE is a chartered psychologist. He is the senior partner and co-founder of Pearn Kandola, a practice of business psychologists. Professor Kandola has published research books, one of which, Diversity in Action: Managing the Mosaic (CIPD, 1998), won a special commendation at the Management Book Awards in 1995. His latest book on unconscious bias in the workplace, The Value of Difference (Pearn Kandola Publishing, 2009), has received widespread critical acclaim. He is also Visiting Professor at Leeds University Business School.

    Graham J.J. Kenealy is an independent consultant and researcher. He is an experienced change professional who uses grounded theory as an instrument for his daily work, enabling him to deliver change programmes for both UK government and global blue chip organizations. His interest in classic grounded theory, which developed during his period of PhD study at the University of Manchester, has continued to grow and he is currently a peer reviewer for The Grounded Theory Review. Dr Kenealy also acts as a troubleshooter at grounded theory seminars for the Grounded Theory Institute. These seminars are designed to help PhD students and supervisors using classic grounded theory.

    Nigel King is Professor in Applied Psychology and Director of the Centre for Applied Psychological Research at the University of Huddersfield. He has a longstanding interest in the use of qualitative methods in ‘real world’ research, especially in community health and social care settings. Recently, he has carried out several projects in community palliative care, focusing especially on roles, relationships and identities. Other interests include the experience of chronic illness, psychological aspects of contact with nature and ethics in qualitative research. He is well known for his work on the ‘template’ style of thematic analysis and more recently the development of a visual technique known as ‘Pictor’.

    Ann Langley is Professor of Management at HEC Montréal and Canada Research Chair in Strategic Management in Pluralistic Settings. Her research focuses on strategic change, leadership, innovation and the use of management tools in complex organizations with an emphasis on processual research approaches. She has published over 50 articles and two books, most recently Strategy as Practice: Research Directions and Resources (Cambridge University Press, 2007, with Gerry Johnson, Leif Melin and Richard Whittington).

    Mark Learmonth is Professor of Organization Studies at Durham University. He spent the first 17 years of his career in management posts within the British National Health Service and still conducts research in healthcare, though with increasingly regular forays elsewhere. Prior to taking up his post in Durham he has worked at the universities of Nottingham and York.

    Bill Lee is Professor and Head of Accounting at Keele Management School, having recently moved from a position as senior lecturer in accounting and financial management in the Management School at the University of Sheffield. His research interests include accountability in the workplace and accounting issues that are relevant to learning initiatives. He also has a long-term interest in research methods and research practice and has been active in the broader academic community in establishing conference tracks and networks in which such issues may be discussed.

    Sally Maitlis is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia. Her research interests include organizational sensemaking, post-traumatic growth at work and narrative and discursive approaches to the study of emotion. Her work has been published in journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Human Relations, the Journal of Management Studies, the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Organization Science and Organization Studies. She serves on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review and Organization Studies, and is a former associate editor for non-traditional research at the Journal of Management Inquiry.

    Cliff Oswick is Professor of Organization Theory and Head of the Faculty of Management at Cass Business School, City University London. Cliff's research interests focus on the application of aspects of discourse to the study of organizations, organizing and organizational change. He has published over 120 academic articles and contributions to edited volumes, including contributions to the Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, the Journal of Management Studies, Organization and Organization Studies. He is European editor for the Journal of Organizational Change Management, associate editor for the Journal of Change Management and co-director of ICRODSC (International Centre for Research on Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change).

    Teresa Oultram received her PhD from Keele University. Her thesis on ‘Exploring the identities of the young male worker: a case study of English apprenticeship schemes’ focuses on how an official government discourse of enterprise competes with localized, workplace discourses, in particular, that of working-class masculinity.

    Rebecca Piekkari is Professor of International Business at the Aalto University, School of Economics (formerly Helsinki School of Economics), in Finland. She has published on qualitative research methods, particularly on the use of case studies in international business. Her most recent book, entitled Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research, was co-edited with Catherine Welch (Edward Elgar, 2011). Rebecca's teaching and research focus on international management, particularly on control, coordination and communication issues in multinational corporations. During the past few years, she has developed a special interest in multilingual organizations and the challenges associated with managing people in such organizations. Rebecca has worked as Visiting Professor and researcher at several well-known business schools and universities, such as INSEAD, the University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, University of Sydney and Copenhagen Business School.

    Katrina Pritchard is a lecturer in the Organizational Psychology Department of Birkbeck, University of London. While her teaching is primarily in the area of Organizational Behaviour and HRM, she also teaches research methods to both Master's and PhD students, covering topics ranging from data management to dissemination. Her research interests lie in the social construction of knowledge, particularly notions of professional knowledge, and in the relationships between knowledge and identity in a variety of organizational contexts. Katrina is interested in a broad range of methodological issues encountered in qualitative research in organizational studies including, as discussed here, combining qualitative methods.

    M. N. Ravishankar is a senior lecturer in International Business and Strategy at the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University. His research interests span the offshore outsourcing of work and culture in global organizations. Ravi's approach to the collection and analysis of empirical material draws inspiration from the interpretive world-view and typically he adopts the case study and ethnography methods in his work. His recent research has appeared in leading international journals such as Information Systems Research, Omega and the Industrial Relations Journal.

    Mark N.K. Saunders is Professor in Business Research Methods at the Surrey Business School, University of Surrey. His research interests focus on two themes. The first, research methods, includes the development of tools to learn about, understand and improve organizational relationships within a process consultation framework, online research methods and methods for researching trust. The second, human resource aspects of the management of change, is concerned particularly with trust and justice. Mark's research findings have been published in a range of academic and practitioner journals. Recent books include: Research Methods for Business Students (FT Prentice Hall, 2009), now in its fifth edition, and co-authored with Phil Lewis and Adrian Thornhill; and Handbook of Research Methods on Trust (Edward Elgar, 2012) co-edited with Fergus Lyon and Guido Möllering.

    Rudolf R. Sinkovics is Professor of International Business at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. His research centres on inter-organizational governance, the role of ICT and research methods in international business. Recent work is geared towards rising powers, emerging markets and drivers of economic change. He received his PhD from Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU-Wien), Austria. His work has been published in journals such as the Journal of International Business Studies, Management International Review, the Journal of World Business, International Business Review and International Marketing Review. Born in Austria, he now lives and works in Manchester.

    Inger Stensaker is Associate Professor of Strategy at NHH Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration. Her research interests are within strategic change implementation, focusing on the dynamics between change management and change recipients using cognitive and sensemaking perspectives and qualitative methods. Her work has been published in journals such as Human Relations, the British Journal of Management, the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Organizational Dynamics and the Journal of Change Management.

    Gillian Symon is Reader in Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. With Catherine Cassell, she has edited three previous books on qualitative methods in organizational research (published by Sage) and they have also, together, written a number of journal articles and book chapters on this topic. They jointly edit the journal Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal. Gillian also has research interests in the wider issue of academic research practices and identity, and in the relationship between technology, work and identity.

    Susanne Tietze is Professor of Organization Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Business School. Her research focuses on language and discourse as used in work contexts and, more recently, on the role of the English language in knowledge production processes in the management academy. She has also conducted studies on emergent forms of work organization and worked for several UK and European universities, as well as consulted on topics such as home-based telework, management and career development. She has published in leading scholarly journals such as Organization Studies, English for Specific Purposes, the Scandinavian Journal of Management and the Journal of Business Ethics.

    Russ Vince is Associate Dean, Research and Professor of Leadership and Change in the School of Management, University of Bath. His research interests are in management and organizational learning, leadership and change. His most recent books are: The Handbook of Experiential Learning and Management Education (Oxford University Press, 2007), Rethinking Strategic Learning (Routledge, 2004) and Organizing Reflection (Ashgate, 2004). Russ is a former editor-in-chief of the international academic journal Management Learning (2005–2010). He is also one of six founding members of the International Network for Visual Studies in Organizations (http://in-visio.org/).

    Samantha Warren is Professor in Management at Essex Business School, University of Essex. Her research interests centre on the aesthetic dimension of organizational life and more specifically, objects, space, materiality and their implications for people's workplaces and professional lives. Her early work explored the role of the material in organizational ‘fun cultures’ and through this she became intrigued as to the possibilities offered to organization studies by visual research. She has remained fascinated by sensory research methods and is currently undertaking a project with Dr Kathleen Riach to explore the role of smell in the workplace. She is a longstanding board member of the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism (SCOS) and a founder member of the International Network for Visual Studies in Organizations (http://in-visio.org/).

    Catherine Welch is a senior lecturer in International Business at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her current research interests lie in the areas of qualitative research in international business, particularly the use of the case study, and process theories of firm internationalization. Together with Rebecca Piekkari, she has edited two volumes on qualitative research published by Edward Elgar: Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business (2004) and Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research (2011). She is part of a Linked In network of qualitative researchers (Qualitative Research in IB) coordinated by Daniella Fjellström at the University of Leeds; anyone interested in joining the network is welcome to contact her.

    Julie Wolfram Cox is Professor of Management (Organization Studies) at Monash University, Australia. She received her PhD in organizational behaviour from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and is interested in critical and aesthetic perspectives in organization theory, particularly in the area of organizational change. In 2005 she co-edited the four volume collection Fundamentals of Action Research (Sage) with Bill Cooke. Her other publications include Disorganization Theory: Explorations in Alternative Organizational Analysis (Routledge, 2008, with John Hassard and Mihaela Kelemen) and articles in Organization Studies, the Journal of Management Studies, Organization, the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, the Journal of Organizational Change Management, Culture and Organization, and the International Journal of Management Reviews.

    Dvora Yanow is a policy and organizational ethnographer and interpretive methodologist whose research and teaching are shaped by an overall interest in the communication of meaning in organizational and policy settings. Holder of the 2005–2010 Strategic Chair in Meaning and Method in the Faculty of Social Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, she is presently Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam, in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and at Wageningen University's Faculty of Social Sciences in the Communication Science Department. Her research investigates state-created categories for race-ethnic identity, immigrant integration policies and citizen-making practices, and research regulation policies and practices, on the policy side; science/technology museums and the meaning of ‘science’, on the methodological side; and spatial and practice studies, on the organizational side.

    Sierk Ybema is Associate Professor, Department of Culture, Organization and Management, VU University, Amsterdam. His ethnographic research centres on processes of politics, identity and sensemaking, with empirical settings ranging from amusement parks to newspaper offices to multinational corporations. He has published widely on culture and conflict, relational and temporal identity talk, managerial discourse and ‘postalgia’, intercultural communications, interorganizational relationships, and organizational change and crisis, in such journals as Human Relations, the International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, Organization Studies and the Journal of Managerial Psychology. He is co-editor of Organizational Ethnography: Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life (Sage, 2009, with Dvora Yanow, Harry Wels and Frans Kamsteeg) and Organizational Culture (Edward Elgar, 2011, with Dvora Yanow and Ida Sabelis), as well as, among others, a 2009 Human Relations Special Issue on ‘Constructing identity in organizations’.

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