Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Matrix-Collage: An Innovative Methodology for Qualitative Inquiry in Social Systems

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Matrix-Collage: An Innovative Methodology for Qualitative Inquiry in Social Systems

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

During a national project on socioeconomic planning in southeastern Iran in 2011, we were confronted with a large volume of incoming qualitative data gathered from the region (the first author served this initiative as project manager and senior scholar). It was necessary to analyze this data and apply it to solutions within the limited time of six months. The data included 100 hours of recorded interviews, 300 related papers and reports, and countless memos about field observations. The topics were problems voiced by habitants, insights gathered about the region, solutions and ideas presented by residents and their proposals for implementing those solutions. However, the problem remained as to how to analyze all this data and attain to practical conclusions on problem(s), insights and solutions regarding the region.

We began by going back to the formal frameworks available about the issue. We found frameworks too general (such as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis) or time-consuming, bureaucratic, and non-agile(such as Aménagement du territoire; This is a French expression dedicated to a French-based doctrine of regional planning. Its incomplete translation is land-use planning). We shaped our research as follows to analyze a pool of incoming data gathered from different sources about a system, reach conclusions about the problems and environment and achieve practical solutions.

We reviewed literature from land-use planning to strategic management and system engineering. Through action research by personal innovation, we designed a framework for analyzing the data and development planning in the region. The framework was implemented in the region over 12 months. The outcomes were valued and used by the government and included elaboration of the problem definition, two macro-policies, and a detailed policy package for the region. Briefly, the framework is an interrelationship qualitative matrix (Figure 7) that establishes a connection between universal-problem-solving processes (in rows) and data collection sources (in columns) that can be customized for each subject under investigation (e.g. Figures 9 and 10). Any data entry can be filled by corresponding memos (data pieces). We attempt to solve row vectors (problem-lines) together iteratively. After attaining theoretical saturation by reaching a conclusion on column vectors, we attained a problem definition, environment analysis, practical solutions, and considerations about implementing solutions.

As noted by St. Pierre and Jackson (2014), data analysis is a "black hole" in qualitative analysis. To confront this dilemma, methods like content analysis, grounded theory and discourse analysis have been popularized. These often rely on codification of data (Carrera-Fernández, Guàrdia-Olmos, & Peró-Cebollero, 2014). Qualitative data analysis (QDA) continues to be problematic, especially when the volume of data is great and it is collected from different sources. Qualitative analysis is described by some as involving as much "art" as science as a "dance" (Schutt, 2015).

Thus after attaining our framework, we were inspired and motivated by such a gap in research about qualitative data analysis, so we decided to review more literature, develop and represent our model. Surprisingly, we discovered new contributory concepts and methods in the field of QDA. Among these are qualitative metaphors and framework analysis as an emergent method. Using such insights, we have upgraded and present our matrix-collage framework (as briefly is summarized at section 1.1) through a systematic review. We think that our matrix-collage can be used not only for social systems (like the case of Iran-south east) but also for problem solving in organizations and other social systems in general.

The initial research question in 2011 was about problem solving in social systems using a qualitative pool of incoming data. …

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