Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Innovative Methodologies in Qualitative Research: Social Media Window for Accessing Organisational Elites for Interviews

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Innovative Methodologies in Qualitative Research: Social Media Window for Accessing Organisational Elites for Interviews

Article excerpt

1Introduction

Successful completion and quality of a research, especially qualitative research, typically requires experienced organisational respondents suitable for answering the research questions meaningfully (Cunliffe and Alcadipani, 2016; Mikecz, 2012; King, 1994; Robson, 2002). Hornby et al (1993, p. 280 cited in Welch et al, 2002) states that elites are groups of individuals in societies who are considered to be superior because of their position of power, authority, talent and privileges, hence the influence that they may exert on others (Woods, 1998). These elites are often difficult to access because of the need to alleviate time pressures around their commitments. Given the need for rich qualitative data which organisational elites provide and interest in managing down the overall costs of doing qualitative research, it is important to explore practical tips for achieving these objectives to beginning researchers, such as research students. Articles on gaining access, building relationship and trust, and maintaining relationships for example, are bountiful. It is however, the need to continue adding to this body of knowledge, reflexive discussions of the strategies for gaining access, especially using case-study experiences, for updating purposes. The ever-evolving technological innovations mean ever-evolving methodologies which researchers can adopt. When such innovations are used successfully, it makes sense to update knowledge on such developments in order to help other researchers; hence the gains of reflexivity in qualitative research. In this paper, a particularly useful set of strategies takes advantage of social media and professional networks as a window for accessing organisational research participants. This approach and strategy is currently not as main-stream as traditional research methods in literature.

The purpose of this paper is to promote the social and professional media as access window for organisational elites. It uses a PhD research entitled: 'The political challenges of foreign direct investments: insights from South African banking sector' completed in 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, to demonstrate the successful use of online social and professional media (LinkedIn particularly) to recruit organisational elites for a qualitative research. The organisational elites involved are therefore experienced bank staff, investors in the banking sector, and policy makers whose perceptions of the said challenges were needed. Reflecting on this journey is important especially to beginning researchers because it opens new windows for accessing the difficult to access organisational elites. The author faced access challenges while doing the PhD research; finding it difficult to connect and obtain interview appointments because of various hurdles. Generally, her experiences are immediate to such beginners, whose problem of access is exacerbated by lack of established network with such elites compared to mature industry-based researchers. Also, there was a real need to manage down the overall cost of the PhD research which was self-funded, a position facing most research students. Because of the purpose of the paper, the author makes no attempt to bring in details of data, analysis or findings.

1.1 Overview of the article

The rest of the article is as follows. Section 2 is a brief literature review on access to organisational elites in qualitative research, which reiterates the gaps in knowledge. Section 3 presents pertinent aspects of the PhD case study contextualises the research experience shared with the readers, and elucidate wider research methods thinking which research students can benefit from. The thrust of the case study is how the researcher overcomes the challenges in gaining access to needed organisational elites in the study. A discussion section (4) summarises the contributions to knowledge of the paper whilst Section 5 presents a case for inclusion of this topic into teaching research methods to research students; suggesting the effective use innovative research approaches to gaining access to elite participants. …

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