A Multi-Methodological Framework for the Design and Evaluation of Complex Research Projects and Reports in Business and Management Studies

By Marais, Hendrik | Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, December 2012 | Go to article overview

A Multi-Methodological Framework for the Design and Evaluation of Complex Research Projects and Reports in Business and Management Studies


Marais, Hendrik, Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods


1. Introduction

According to Bryman, "combining quantitative and qualitative research has become unexceptional and unremarkable in recent years" (2006: 97). His content analysis of over 200 articles showed that the main reasons offered by authors for combining quantitative and qualitative research methodological approaches were 'enhancement' (to augment either quantitative or qualitative findings), sampling (to facilitate the sampling of respondents or cases) and triangulation (to crossvalidate).

Against the background of Bryman's observation, it would be interesting to identify research methodological preferences, if any, in Business and Management Studies. Since the European Conference on Research Methodology (ECRM) represented one the premier annual scholarly gatherings in Europe in these fields, it could be expected that these conferences should reflect methodological preferences. A relatively simple content analysis was consequently done of the papers presented at the most recent two conferences in 2011 and 2012 (see Ashwin, 2011 and McClean, 2012 for the proceedings). More specifically, the goal of the content analysis was to identify the relative popularity of qualitative, quantitative and multi-methodological approaches on the one hand and empirical and conceptual ones on the other (see the table note for the definitions). An associate of the author also coded a random sample (11) of the ECRM 11 papers to establish the reliability of the content analysis; she used the definitions of the different categories reflected in the note attached to Table 1. There was 91 percent agreement between the two sets of codings which was judged satisfactory given the relatively abstract nature of the categories. The results of the content analysis are summarised in Table 1.

An inspection of Table 1 shows several interesting aspects of research in business and management studies of which the following four are perhaps the most relevant from the perspective of the present paper. Firstly, over the two years of these two conferences qualitative empirical papers predominated, followed by quantitative empirical and qualitative conceptual papers. Secondly, conceptual papers represented 50 percent of all the papers presented at ECRM in Caen and Bolton. Thirdly, only two papers were presented that dealt with quantitative conceptual issues, i.e. theoretical and methodological underpinnings of research - as opposed to 25 or 17 percent that addressed qualitative conceptual issues. (Perhaps, one wonders, whether this can be attributed to the relatively long history of conceptual questions of a quantitative nature and what seems to be a more recent item on the qualitative agenda of methodologists.) Fourthly,

1. Empirical papers: Reports on completed research projects involving some quantitative or qualitative form of observation/measurement was used for information gathering. Conceptual papers: Those that considered theoretical and methodological underpinnings of research or set out project plans (Plan) and did not report an empirical research project. Qual: Papers that dealt only with qualitative research; Quan: Papers that dealt only with quantitative research; Multi: Papers that covered both qualitative and quantitative empirical or conceptual research

2. Percentages have been rounded-offand up and do not necessarily add up to 100 percent.

Less than one fifth of the papers could be classified as being of a multi-methodological type (25 or 17 percent). Clearly, while multi-methodological research did receive a fair amount of attention, qualitative studies still predominated, In this regard, one is reminded of Blumberg, Cooper and Schindler's comment, "Many scholars show a strong preference for either type of study. However, these preferences more likely reflect their own capabilities and experiences than a general idea about which type of research is more useful" (2008: 192). The present paper offers a three-dimensional framework of research methodology based on the assumption of complementarity rather than irreconcilability between different research approaches. …

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