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Aciuicn,v ()f A1rnwgrnnenl [onrrut]

2004, VoL 47, No, 4, 454-462.


Qualitative Research and the Academy of Management Journal

Editor's note: For this issue's "From the Editors," agement Journal. Qualitative research is important
I invited Robert Gephart of the University of Al- to AMI Qualitative research is actively sought and
berta to reflect on his observations as a long-serv- supported by the Journal, its editors, and its edito-
ing, award-winning reviewer of qualitative re- rial review board. Alv1Jhas published many quali-
search for A!vII Over the past two and a half years, tative papers. The coveted A/'v1jBest Article Award
I have developed a tremendous respect for Bob's has been won by three qualitative papers-Gersick
keen eye for evaluating qualitative research sub- (1989), Isabella (1990), and Dutton and Duckerich
missions, and great admiration for the painstaking (1991)-and by one paper that combined qualita-
advice he provides authors about how to improve tive and quantitative methods: Sutton and Rafuclli,
their work. As a world-renowned qualitative author (1988). Despite these successes, most qualitative
himself, Bob is in an excellent position to provide papers, like most quantitative ones, do not succeed
observations about how authors might increase the in being accepted. This situation is not surprising
chances of having their qualitative research ac- for a journal with a 10 percent acceptance rate,
cepted for publication at AMI However, it seems to me as a reviewer that there
In a three-way electronic mail conversation about are certain recurrent issues in qualitative submis-
the challenges and opportunities of qualitative re- sions that, if addressed, could improve the pros-
search, Bob, Tom Lee, and I all concluded that pects for positive revise and resubmit decisions
many authors with potentially very interesting data and ultimate acceptance at AiWJ, This editorial of-
sets don't seem to know how to analyze them to fers suggestions to enhance the quality of qualita-
their full potential. This is perhaps not surprising, tive research submitted to AiWI The ideas are based
gi ven the clear predominance of quantitative meth- on my experiences as a reviewer for AA1] and as a
ods and statistics courses over qualitative ones, past Research Methods Division chair. I have also
particularly in North America, as well as the inher- been a published qualitative researcher for 26 years
ently greater subjectivity involved in designing and and have one AiWJ publication [out of two submis-
analyzing qualitative research. As such, we encour- sions). Hopefully these comments will encourage
aged Bob to provide a bit of a minitutorial-com- outstanding qualitative research in management.
plete with reference citations and examples of An important caveat is necessary at the outset:
high-quality papers that use particular qualitative "There are probably rules for writing the persua-
approaches-in addition to his observations about sive, memorable and publishable qualitative re-
qualitative research submitted to AMI search article but, rest assured, no one knows what
The result is a longer-than-usual "From the Edi- they arc" (Van Maancn, 19SJ8: xxv). The following
tors" column. but one that we believe is well worth comments seek to inspire and inform readers but
the extra reading time for anyone interested in pro- do not specify formulae, algorithms, or criteria for
ducing, reviewing, or attempting to coax greater producing good qualitative research. Instead, the
insights from qualitative research. We are fortunate column reviews the nature of qualitative research,
to have someone with Bob's expertise share his notes important linkages between theories and
observations, and we hope that his thoughts will methods, reviews key qualitative methodologies,
prove useful to researchers for many years to come. and highlights challenges and opportunities in sub-
mining qualitative research to AMI Along the way,
Sara Rynes
helpful examples of qualitative research are cited
Incoming Editor
and useful resources are noted. These suggestions
I am thankful to Sara for inviting me to write this may help authors strengthen the foundations of
editorial column encouraging scholars to submit their qualitative manuscript submissions.
their qualitative research to the Academy of Man-
What Is Qualitative Research and Why Is It
I wish to thank Torn Lee and Sara Rynes for their
helpful comments and encouragement in preparing this Qualitative research is multirncthod research
editorial. that uses an i ntorprotivo, naturalistic approach to
2004 Gephart 455

its subject matter (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). Quali- cepts. Quantitative research codes, counts, and quan-
tative research emphasizes qualities of entities- tifies phenomena in its effort to meaningfully repre-
the processes and meanings that occur naturally sent concepts. Qualitative research thus has an
(Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 8). Qualitative research inherently literary and humanistic focus, whereas
often studies phenomena in the environments in quantitative research is grounded in mathematical
which they naturally occur and uses social actors' and statistical knowledge. An important value of
meanings to understand the phenomena (Denzin & qualitative research is description and understanding
it Lincoln, 1994: 2). Qualitative research addresses of the actual human interactions, meanings, and pro-
d questions about how social experience is created cesses that constitute real-life organizational settings.
)- and given meaning and produces representations of The depiction and understanding of the meanings of
i- the world that make the world visible (Denzin & organization members is important in itself (Nelkin &
'd Lincoln, 2000: 3). Beyond this, qualitative research Brown, 1984) and is a task often neglected in organi-
:k is "particularly difficult to pin down" because of its zational research. The domain of naturally occurring
:h "flexibility and emergent character" (Van Maanen, meanings is highly accessible to qualitative research
'1- 1998: xi). Qualitative research is often designed at and distant from quantitative research. An important
i, the same time it is being done; it requires "highly issue is to balance the humanistic and literary aspects
re contextualized individual judgements" (Van Maanen, of qualitative research that focus on meanings with
1998: xi); morever, it is open to unanticipated the demands for scientific knowledge based in math-
events, and it offers holistic depictions of realities ematical or statistical reasoning.
that cannot be reduced to a few variables. A second important point is that qualitative re-
:e Clarity can be gained by contrasting qualitative search involves both data collection and data anal-
s- research with quantitative research that "empha- ysis. Both steps in the research process can be
s- sizes measurement and analysis of causal relations qualitative or quantitative. Many scholars consider
1S among variables" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 8). Al- the quantitative analysis of qualitative data to be
f- though the two research genres overlap, qualitative qualitative research. But it can be argued that quan-
research can be conceived of as inductive and in- titative analysis of qualitative data requires data to
terpretive (Van Maanen, 1998). It provides a narra- be quantified, and hence this is quantitative re-
a tive of people's view(s) of reality and it relies on search. My point is that management researchers
;0 words and talk to create texts. Qualitative work is face many mathematical, statistical, and measure-
rs highly descriptive and often recounts who said ment challenges when they apply quantitative or
s- what to whom as well as how, when, and why. An calculative techniques or perspectives to qualita-
~e emphasis on situational details unfolding over time tive data. These challenges become obscured when
allows qualitative research to describe processes. research that uses quantitative tools of analysis is
Qualitative researchers also seek to explain re- labeled qualitative research.
a- search observations by providing well-substanti- Qualitative research is important for manage-
8- ated conceptual insights that reveal how broad con- ment scholarship for many reasons. In brief, it pro-
at cepts and theories operate in particular cases. This vides insights that are difficult to produce with
19 approach is distinct from that of quantitative re- quantitative research. For example, qualitative re-
~t search using the hypothetical-deductive model that search can provide thick, detailed descriptions of
)r uncovers important relationships among variables actual actions in real-life contexts that recover and
1e and tests general propositions. preserve the actual meanings that actors ascribe to
fl, The distinction just drawn between qualitative these actions and settings. Qualitative research can
,d and quantitative research overstates the differences thus provide bases for understanding social pro-
s, between these overlapping genres. But it does call cesses that underlie management. Qualitative re-
::J- attention to two critical issues. First, qualitative search can also provide memorable examples of
y, research employs the meanings in use by societal important management issues and concepts that
~d members to explain how they directly experience enrich the field. Finally, qualitative research has
1S everyday life realities. It builds social science con- potential to rehumanize research and theory by
::Jf structs from members' "concepts-in-use" and fo- highlighting the human interactions and meanings
cuses on the socially constructed nature of reality that underlie phenomena and relationships among
(Schutz, 1973). Quantitative, positivist research, in variables that are often addressed in the field.
contrast, imposes scientific meanings on members
to explain a singular, presumed-to-be true reality
The Methodological Importance of Theory
that nonscientists may not appreciate. Second,
:h qualitative research starts from and returns to words, The relationship between theory and methodol-
to talk, and texts as meaningful representations of con- ogy is important. Researchers need to use method-
456 Academy of Managemen! jOUTJ]U] August

ologies that are consistent with the assumptions grounded thnnrizi ng. have been used. Indeed, most
and aims of the theoretical view being expressed. A authors making qual i I at i V8 subrn issions claim to
simplified conception of three perspectives used in have used grounded l hnurv processes, although ref-
management research is presented in Table 1. Pos- erences to grounded theury are more common than
itivism and postpositivistn adopt the stance of real- detailed applicatiun of grounded theory tech-
ism and rely on the assumption of an objective niques. The problern is that grounded theory often
world external to the mind that is mirrored by does not fit well with the objectives of positivist or
scientific data and theories. Positivism and post- postpositivist qualitative research. The misfit oc-
positivism are efforts to uncover truth or true real- curs in part because, like many other qualitative
ity. Postpositivism, the more recent view, differs techniques discussed below, grounded theory orig-
from positivism in holding that reality can be inated within the interpretive research tradition of
known only probabilistic ally, and hence verifica- social research (Van Maanun, 1998) and was do-
tion is not possible. Falsification, not verification, signed to achieve interpretive research goals and
of hypotheses becomes the basic task of research. insights concerning meanings, as noted below. This
\Vell-developed postpositivist qualitative methods theoretical-methodological inconsistency may in
can uncover facts and compare facts to hypotheses part explain why many qualitative research sub-
or prior findings in an attempt to falsify prior hy- missions, particularly those in the positivist tradi-
potheses or to contradict previous knowledge. tion, provide insights that are somewhat limited
A large proportion of the qualitative research I and at times superficial. It is difficult to provide
have reviewed for AlvlJ can be characterized as rep- strong and rigorous findings without well-devel-
resenting positivism and postpositivism. Many of oped criteria for evaluating hypotheses. And super-
these submissions seek to mirror quantitative re- ficial findings seem likely if grounded theory is
search techniques. An important challenge for this applied in ways that omit analysis of the differ-
qualitative research is to articulate rules or bases ences in meanings across important social groups.
for deciding "associations" and for determining Two exemplars of positivist research published in
how results and findings fit with preliminary prop- AAIJ are McNamara and Bromiley's (1997) study of
ositions or hypotheses, This is a challenge, since decision making using qualitative and quantitative
qualitative research lacks the explicit coefficients data, and Gersick's (1989) discovery-oriented qual-
and criteria for evaluating and falsifying hypothe- itative study of groups.
ses that quantitative research has developed. The focus of the interpretive perspective differs
Perhaps because of this challenge, well-known from the focus on variables and hypothesis falsifi-
qualitative methods from social science, such as cation used in postpositivism. The goal of interpre-

Research Traditions"
Positivism and
Tradition Poslpositivism Interpretive Research Critical Postmodernism

Assumptions about reality Realism: Objective reality Relativism: Local intorsubjcctive Historical realism: Material/symbolic
that can bo understood rualitios composed from reality shaped by values and
by mirror of science: subjective and objective crystallizes over time
definitive/ probabilis tic meanings: represented with
concepts of actors
Goal Discover truth Describe meanings. Uncover hidden interests and
understanding contradictions: critique.
transformation, and emancipation
Tasks Undertake explanation Produce descriptions of Develop structural or historical
and control of members' meanings and insights that reveal contradictions
variables: discern definitions of situation: and allow emancipation, spaces
verified hvpothnsos or understand reality for si lnncad voices
nnnlalsified hypotheses construction
Unit of analysis Variable Verbal or nonverbal action Contradictions, critical incidents.
signs and symbols
Methods focus Uncover facts, compare Recover and understand Understand historical evolution of
these to hypotheses or situated meanings, systematic meanings, material practices,
prnpositions divergences in meaning contradictions, inequalities

a This table is based on Gephart (1999), Cuba and Lincoln (HJ94), and Lincoln and Cuba (2000).
2004 Gephart 457

tive research is to understand the actual production tive methodologies to uncover divergent meanings
of meanings and concepts used by social actors in held by groups in power-laden relationships. Mor-
real settings. A relativist stance is adopted such row (1994) provides a helpful discussion of critical
that diverse meanings are assumed to exist and to theory methodology. Given the theoretical focus of
influence how people understand and respond to critical research, many critical management papers
the objective world. Interpretive research thus de- have appeared in the Academy of Management Re-
scribes how different meanings held by different view. But empirical research that uses critical the-
persons or groups produce and sustain a sense of ory is rare in management (Alvesson & Wilmott,
truth, particularly in the face of competing defini- 1992) and would be welcome at AM! (Eden, 2003).
tions of reality. And it inductively constructs social Ashcraft (2001) offers an example of critical femi-
science concepts using concepts of social actors as nist research in AM].
the foundations for analytic induction. This con- Like critical research, postmodern thought also
cern with meanings and second-order concepts- begins with the assumption that realities are value
the concepts of the concepts of social actors-leads laden and contain contradictions. But postmodern
to a focus on thick descriptions of members' talk thought tends to focus on signs and symbols and
and nonverbal actions in specific settings. Rather the idea that these are decoupled from realities they
than producing qualitative facts to evaluate hy- represent. As such, postmodern thought adds a fo-
potheses, interpretive researchers seek to describe cus on texts or written documents that symboli-
and understand members' meanings and the impli- cally create and disclose structured inequalities.
cations that divergent meanings hold for social in- Critical postmodern thought has thus begun to uti-
teraction. Isabella's (1990) award-winning paper lize textual, literary, and deconstructionist ap-
stands as an excellent example of interpretive re- proaches to analysis of materials. Boje's (1995)
search published in AM]. study of multiple discourses at Disney provides an
Critical postmodernism combines critical theory example of postmodern research with a critical fla-
and postmodern thought. Critical research de- vor that appeared in AM].
scribes the historical emergence of social structures This brief review of theoretical perspectives il-
and the contemporary contexts in which these lustrates three distinctive approaches to theory that
structures form contradictions with implications are related to research methodology. Postpositivism
for social action and human freedom. For example, requires methods of collecting and analyzing fac-
critical research explores the presence and impli- tual depictions of the world that reveal singular
cations of the basic contradiction of advanced cap- truths or realities and that can be used to evaluate
italism: the desire for profit exceeds the available (falsify) hypotheses. Interpretive research uncov-
profit. Contradictions are conceived to be basic to ers, describes, and theoretically interprets actual
the exploitation that emerges when hegemonic meanings that people use in real settings. It exam-
worldviews conceal contradictions, leaving people ines how particular meanings become shared, dom-
unaware of tacit forms of domination and subjuga- inant, and/or contested in situations in which al-
tion that are present. Critical research uncovers ternative meanings and understandings are present
relations of dominance and subjugation and pro- and possible. Critical postmodernism describes
duces insights to make social actors reflexively dominant and subordinated meanings, displays the
aware of their own role in the reproduction of cap- power implications of meanings, and encourages
italist inequities. Critical research seeks to trans- critical reflexivity to make people aware of the
form the social order and allow emancipation from constraints on their own meanings and actions.
unwanted structures of domination. Critical reflexivity provides a means for emancipa-
Methodologically, critical research emphasizes tion from structures of domination.
dialogic and dialectical methods (Lincoln & Guba, Clearly, qualitative methodologies must be used
2000) as ways to transcend taken-for-granted in ways that are consistent with the theoretical or
truths. Critical research adopts a historical realist paradigmatic view(s) adopted and the specific
assumption that the construction of reality is problems being explored. This consistency is im-
shaped by social, political and economic values portant so that the research process is capable of
that crystallize and become reified over time. This producing the kinds of data and analyses necessi-
constructed reality is experienced as firmly as if it tated by the theory in use and the goals of research
were the unconstructed reality assumed by positiv- in the related paradigm. Two options could en-
ists. Thus, critical research uncovers facts about hance consistency in theories and methodologies.
power relations that are obscure to societal mem- First, scholars could adopt postpositivist method-
bers. Further, its assumption is that there are mul- ological techniques from social science to enhance
tiple views of the world, and it employs interpre- consistency between postpositivist theory and
4513 /vccdetnv of A1anagemenl [ournal August

methods-in-use in management. Second, scholars gest resources to consul t when planning qualitative
could use interpretive or critical pcstrnodern per- research, and note recent Ai\1] papers that use these
spectives more often and adopt social science methodologies.
methods that were originally developed for in tor- A case study is research that describes a single
pretive and critical research agendas and purposes. even t or unit of analysis determined by the re-
1\10st Aivl] authors and reviewers are well skilled searcher. There are different types of case studies
and trained in quantitative, positivist techniques (Hamel, Dufour, & Fortin, 1993). Case studies often
and perspectives but arc less prepared to produce use archival or documentary data along with other
interpretive and critical postrnodern research. This sources, combine qualitative arid quantitative data,
discrepancy may explain why interpretive and crit- and examine a phenomenon or "case" as it changes
ical postmodern research is less common in ANI] over time. A well-known oxarriple of case study
than positivist research. However, I believe and research is Biggart's (1977) classic study of change
have been assured by Tom Lee and Sara Rynes that at the U.S. post office. Another example is Hera-
Jll\1j va I ues and welcomes submissions from each cleous and Barrett's (2001) nicely done case study
of these three perspectives. of the implementation of electronic trading on the
London Insurance Market, which was published
in A!v!].
Well-Developed lVlethodologies Are Useful
Interviews are situated, face-to-face interactions
Qualitative research requires qualitative methods in which researchers typically pose questions that
by definition. It is important to show what was respondents answer. There are different types of
done in the research process and to articulate how intorvi ews and related methodologies. Ethno-
research practices transformed observations into graphic interviews (Spradley, 1979) are used to un-
data, results, findings, and insights. The mnrhorlcl- derstand informants' conceptions of culture. Long
ogy used need not be complex, and the method- interviews (McCracken, 1988) link analytical cate-
ological account need not dominate the written gories and literature with respondents' cultural cat-
report. But many qualitative submissions I have egories and meanings. Focus groups assemble
reviewed lacked exp lici t ana I ytical methods. groups of individuals who respond to questions or
The major problem with failure to use a rigorous, themes. They represent a collect ive rather than in-
well-developed methodology is that data are un- dividualistic research method that permits collec-
likely to be systematically, comprehensively, or ox- tive testimonies and narratives (Madriz, 2000: 836).
haustively reviewed. Hence, findings produced A classic interview-based study in AJ.\1] is Isabella's
from informal or ill-defined procedures may be (1990J paper on organizational change.
both different from and weaker than those pro- A number of observational methods are available
duced when a clear methodological process is for use, The first method is participant observation,
used. When methods are used but not described which involves social interaction in the Iielriw ith
explicitly, orwhen findings are presented early in a subjects, direct observation of relevant events, for-
study and prior to discussion of goals, theory, and mal and informal interviewing, some counting, col-
methods, other problems arise. For exam ple, if it is lection of documents, and flexibility in the direc-
unclear to the reader how research was undertaken, tion the st udy takes (.l'v1cCall & Simmons, 1969: 1).
it may be difficult to connect claims in the paper In participant observation, it is common for a re-
that reports that research to the data presented. The searcher to play the role of a member of the group
operation of concepts in data needs to be revealed studied and to use subjective experiences as critical
in clear and oxpl icit \\lays if the findings are to be data. Barker's (1993) study of how teams control
comprehensible and credible. \i\lhile qualitative members' behavior provides a classic example of
methods need to be elaborated or modified for each observation-based research. Yakura (2002) pro-
new application, this does not mean that anything vides a recent example of participant-observation-
goes or that the best method is no method. Re- based research published in AN!]. A second obser-
search ers need to report their sources and types 0 r vational approach is ethnogHlphy (Hammersley &
data as well as their data analysis practices. Atkinson, 19S15), which involves the production of
Qualitative data are collected using one or more descriptions of culture obtained by immersion in
research approaches, including case studies, inter- the culture studied. Perlow, Okhuysen, and Repen-
views, observations, grounded theory, and textual n ing, (2002) provide a recent example of ethno-
analysis. General overviews of qualitative research graphically informed fieldwork publ ishcd in AiVIf.
may be found in Silverman (2004) and Colden- A third observation-based approach is cth nomcth-
Biddle and Locke (1997). In this section, I provide odology (Coulon, 1995), defined as the study of the
a brief overview of those useful methodologies. sug- practical rnethods members of society use to con-
2004 Gephart 459

struct and maintain a sensible understanding of the of management texts is an example of narrative-
social world. An example of ethnomethodological rhetorical analysis published in AM].
research published in AM] is provided by my paper Textual analysis can also be undertaken with
on disaster sensemaking (Gephart, 1993). computer software support (Kabanoff, 1997). Com-
Two additional observational methods have im- puter-aided textual analysis uses the capabilities of
portant but unrealized potential in management computers to produce qualitative and numerical
research. The first is conversational analysis, the results from qualitative or textual materials (Kelle,
study of sequential, utterance-by-utterance, talk 1995). Computer-aided interpretive textual analysis
and conversation that often uses ethnomethod- is a related qualitative research approach that pro-
ological concepts to provide an understanding of vides insights into organization members' mean-
how talk structures social interaction (Gubrium & ings by using computers to support theoretical
Holstein, 2000: 492). The second is systematic self- sampling, textual analysis, expansion analysis,
observation, a new and well-developed observa- and grounded theory development (Gephart, 1997).
tional technique that involves "training informants Computer-supported qualitative data analysis al-
to observe and record a selected feature of their lows one to systematically, comprehensively, and
own everyday experience" (Rodriguez & Ryave, exhaustively analyze a corpus of data. Many qual-
2002: 2). Systematic self-observation may prove itative papers submitted to AM], particularly posi-
particularly useful to researchers interested in lan- tivism-oriented papers, would benefit from a com-
guage use in organizations. puter-supported textual analysis approach because
Grounded theorizing (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) is it provides ways to investigate qualitative and
the process of iteratively and inductively construct- quantitative features of texts and offers approaches
ing theory from observations using a process of to hypothesis testing using qualitative and/or quan-
titative data. Few AM] papers have used such tech-
theoretical sampling in which emergent insights
direct selection and inclusion of the "next" infor- niques even when these have been recommended
during the review process.
mant or slice of data. Grounded theory involves
constant comparative analysis whereby groups are
compared on the basis of theoretical similarities Challenges and Opportunities
and differences. A large number of research sub-
This section outlines common problems and
missions and qualitative papers published in AM]
challenges found in many qualitative submissions
refer to grounded theory as part of their methodol-
to AM], and potential solutions to these problems.
ogy. Indeed, by examining the methodological
These points follow from the issues raised above, as
citations in qualitative submissions, one would well as from rereading reviews written by other
conclude grounded theory was a ubiquitous meth- reviewers and myself in the last two years, and
odology in our field. But relatively few manuscripts editors' letters to authors in which these materials
explain how grounded theory methodology was had been retained.
used to produce results and findings. It is even less The first issue is that many submissions appear
common for qualitative papers to address related to be "one off" papers that do not seem to be em-
grounded theory practices, such as theoretical bedded in ongoing research projects or programs.
sampling and the constant comparative method of Qualitative research manuscripts that emerge from
analysis. Perlow, Okhuysen, and Repenning (2002) broad, ongoing research programs seem more likely
provide a recent example of grounded theory- to produce substantial new insights because they
influenced research published recently in AM]. address multiple issues and have large corpora of
Textual analysis involves analysis of texts using data to analyze. This point is underscored when
ideas from theories in hermeneutics and literary authors revise and resubmit a paper. Since few
criticism intended to provide systematic under- manuscripts are acceptable on first submission, re-
standing of texts. Two forms of textual analysis that viewers often request additional data and analyses.
have been used in management and organizational But few authors actually return to the field, collect
research are semiotics, which is the study of signs new data or add previously collected data, or em-
(Barley, 1983), and narrative analysis (Boje, 2001), ploy new or different analytical procedures. Where
which examines structural, literary features of research is part of an ongoing research program,
texts. Rhetorical analysis of texts (Simons, 1989) is authors can more readily elaborate their ideas,
also relevant to narrative analysis. Narrative-rhetor- modify their topics, and analyze additional data.
ical analysis is illustrated by Barry and Elmes's The iterative nature of qualitative research should
(l997) analysis of strategic management as a form continue during the submission and the review and
of fiction. Locke and Colden-Biddle's (1997) study revision stages of research.
4{iO Acudcmy of ;v[uJlagemcnl [ourno] August

A second problem is that the introductions to tions: to clearl y describe the proc:esses used to re-
qualitative papers often lack adequate reviews of view data and to formulate themes 81H1 insights.
important 1iterature relevant to the topics of the The reader needs to know how r:at[~gories or themes
papers. A surprising number of qualitative papers were discerned in data and how kov decisions were
provide literature reviews as part of their results, made in the research process. It is useful to refer to
findings, or conclusions and only after rosu lts and explici t and csta b] ishod research methods and lit-
findings have been stated. Th is practice makes the erature 10 describe general methodological ap-
work completely mysterious until topics, concepts, proaches and to indicate; how such methods have
and past research are finally nuted. By the time this been modified or adapted to address current re-
occurs, the findings often appear to readers to have search questions and data. But methodology should
been arbitrarily assembled or drawn directly from be explai ned and then used. It should not over-
the literature rather than based on data, causing whelm the conceptual importance of d paper.
reviewers to ask, What is now here';' This problem Several specific methodulogic:al issues are often
can be addressed by providing an effective review evident to reviewers once data are presented. A
of literature l118t notes the content and limits of common reviewer request is to provide the; "thicker
prior research in the apposite; field and that points and more detailed" descriptions that am essential
to a lacuna in the literature that the study CRn for capturing members' meanings and in situ social
address. Further, qualitative papers need to address processes. 'rhus it is important INhere possible to
important research in related fields as well as in include raw or primary qualitative data in papers
management since management is a transdi sci- (for instance, actual talk by respondents). It is also
plinary field and significant implications arc often important to analyze or interpret such data, not
based in or relevant to important issues and social simply to present it. In addition, iI is important to
research trends outside the field. compare and contrast to reveal concep-
A third and related problem is that qualitative tual similarities and differences in data. These
submissions often fail to state explicit goals, objec- examples need to represent key concepts and to
tives, or research questions that frame the papers be selected on conceptual and met hodoJogical
and gu ide data anulysis and research outcomes. It is grounds, wi lh discussion provided as to hOI\' l.ho
important for qualitative research to have a clear examples relate to the broader corpus of data used
focus and bases on which to proceed. Also, the in the study. Drawing these; links avoids the com-
importance of the research questions posed is fun- mon problem of "exampling." whereby a researcher
damental to the contribution made by a given pa- addresses a few examples but fails to explain how
per. Through specification of research questions these examples represent a broader data sot or to
that reflect an important gap in the literature, a explain why they were chosen. Fi nallv. there is a
study can ident ify important lacunae in the schol- tendency for qual itativo submissions to present
arly domain. faits accomplis. offering findings without uxpl ann-
Fourth, where questions are provided, the con- tion as to their origi ns. This pract icc is a problem
cepts underlying them often are not well defined, since it is important to show how findings were
and the meaning of tho questions remains elusive. surfaced from data or otherwise disclosed through
It is important for research papers-whether qual- analysis. Without these connections, findings often
itative or quantitative-to define and explain key appear to lack grounding in data.
concepts in ways that allow the reader to anticipate A sixth domain of problems concerns discussion
how the concepts could be located in data or ob- and conclusion sections. Authors need Io revisit
servations. Concepl ual and empirical definition of research questions or goals in their discussions to
key concepts is important even when a paper's explain how their questions were answered and
authors seck to dispute or elaborate prior defini- how their gORls were achieved in the reported re-
tions. An d the theoretical background to these con- search. The broader implications audimpmtance
cepts needs to be disclosed in ways that create of the findi ngs arc contributions the p<1pc;r offers.
consistency among theories, concepts, research These need to be explained and related to issues in
q uestions, and methodologies. management and to key social science research
Fifth , although methodologicaI issues are impor- issues.
tant to qualitative research, it is extremely common
[0 find that the methodulugy is underspecified.
Since methodological issues have already been ad-
dressed in detail, only a few brief comments are; Good qun litativo research is difficult and chnl-
noted here. It is important to describe the analytical lenging to undertake. Many scholars believe good
mothod or approach used to address research ques- qualitative research is more difficult and time con-
st 2004 Gephart 461

~- suming to create than good quantitative research. N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of
s. Qualitative research often involves fieldwork, and qualitative research (2nd ed.): 1-28. Thousand
~s the word "work" is important here. There are no Oaks, CA: Sage.
~e algorithms for producing it. Qualitative researchers Dutton, J. K, & Duckerich, J. M. 1991. Keeping an eye on
o will likely be less productive than quantitative re- the mirror: Image and identity in organizational ad-
t- searchers in terms of the number of manuscripts aptation. Academy of Management Journal, 34:
)- produced. Qualitative researchers should be evalu- 517-554.
re ated in terms of the significance and the impact Eden, D. 2003. Critical management studies and the
e- their publications have on the field. The advantage Academy of Management Journal: Challenge and
ld of qualitative research is that it offers scholars a counterchallenge. Academy of Management Jour-
r- rewarding and meaningful way to lead their lives. nal, 46: 390-394.
The rewards include direct engagement with every- Gephart, R. P. 1993. The textual approach: Risk and
in day management and organizational realities and blame in disaster sensemaking. Academy of Man-
A opportunities to make substantial contributions to agement Journal, 36: 1465-1514.
er the field. Qualitative research often advances the
Gephart, R. P. 1997. Hazardous measures: An interpre-
al field by providing unique, memorable, socially im-
tive textual analysis of quantitative sensemaking
al portant and theoretically meaningful contributions during crises. Journal of Organizational Behavior,
to to scholarly discourse and organizational life. 18: 583-622.
Robert P. Gephart, Jr. Gephart, R. P. 1999. Paradigms and research methods.
University of Alberta Research Methods Division forum, 4.
ot rmd/ 199 9_RMD_Forum_Paradigms_and_Research_
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Paul M. Dauten, Jr, University of Illinois 1958-60
Dalton E. McFarland Michigon State University 1961-63
Paul J. Gordon Indiana University 1964-66
Stanley C. Vance University of Oregon 1967-69
Wil linm G. Scott University of Washington 1970-72
John Bv Miner Gcosgia State University 1973-75
Larry L. Cummings University of lVisconsin-1\1adison 1976-78
John \iV. Slocum, Jr. Southern Methodist University 1979-81
Thomas A. Mahoney Vanderbilt University 1982-84
Janice M. Beyer New York University 1985-87
Richard T. Mowdav University oj Oregon 1988-90
Michael A. Hitt Texas A&J\1 University 1991-93
Angelo S. DeNisi Rutgers University 1994 -96
Anne S. Tsui Hong Kong University oj Science [7 Technology 1S197-99
Gregory B. Northcraft University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2000-01