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All researchers want to produce interesting and influential theories. A key step in all theory development is formulating innovative research questions that will result in interesting and significant research.

Traditional textbooks on research methods tend to ignore, or gloss over, actual ways of constructing research questions. In this text, Alvesson and Sandberg develop a problematization methodology for identifying and challenging the assumptions underlying existing theories and for generating research questions that can lead to more interesting and influential theories, using examples from across the social sciences. Established methods of generating research questions in the social sciences tend to focus on ‘gap-spotting’, which means that existing literature remains largely unchallenged. The authors show the dangers of conventional approaches, providing detailed ideas for how one can work through ...

Problematization as a Methodology for Generating Research Questions
Problematization as a methodology for generating research questions

In the previous two chapters, we first investigated the strategies that researchers use for constructing and formulating research questions from the existing literature. The most prevalent strategy by far is gap-spotting. It is by looking for ‘gaps’ – either a lack of studies or a shortage in the delivery of conclusive results in existing literature – that research questions are constructed. We thereafter emphasized that gap-spotting research is unlikely to produce interesting and influential knowledge contributions. Gap-spotting studies reinforce rather than challenge existing theories in any significant way – and are therefore incapable of producing something with a high impact.

In order to support efforts to more deliberately and systematically identify ...

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