Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Research Methodologies and Professional Practice: Considerations and Practicalities

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Research Methodologies and Professional Practice: Considerations and Practicalities

Article excerpt

1. Research methodologies and professional practice

The aim of this paper is to position critical reflexive thinking as having a key part to play in professional doctorial research in both developing students from all industries 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 their professional practice. 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.

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.

For McAuley et al. positivism is " the dominant philosophical stance in a great deal of organization theory " (2007:33), and, as such, can be regarded as the default position for research designed to influence and improve management practice. It is also seen as " pivotal to management " (McAuley et al 2007) since it provides 'truths? that can be used to control, with the authority to do the controlling. 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 and we do not argue that positivist research is de facto flawed, or that research carried out in this tradition should be disregarded; we do, however, contend that there is an alternative approach that has much to recommend it to the researcher who is specifically seeking to develop professional understanding and make a contribution to knowledge, understanding and management praxis.

For us, this is a subjectivist, often but not necessarily, critical approach to qualitative research that embraces reflexivity and takes familiar academic and business approaches a step further. Talk of subjectivity, bias and interpretation may, however, seriously affect the acceptability of research amongst business people and needs careful handling. The methodology must make sense to both academic and management practice. It must stand up to the scrutiny of both and must produce results that are understood and respected by both traditions. We suggest that one way of bridging the gap is to encourage senior figures from non-academic fields championing the approach in their own doctoral research and in putting the conclusions of that research to work in their own places of employment. 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 to positivist research and the aspects of familiarity and the value that critical reflexive thinking can have throughout their 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 then informs professional practice.

This approach directly recognises the researcher?s hunches at the start of the research journey; hunches which we often find have motivated the professional student to seek a way of bringing their academic and business worlds together; hunches that are drawn from many different sources, such as, the researcher?s intuition, life history, and from corporate and academic research and literature. …

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