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Qualitative Methods in Doctoral Research

Abstract

Qualitative research is an important choice in management research. It gives special significance to complex inter-related problems. There are many types of qualitative research. In this work, four papers are analyzed, briefly, to elicit some types of qualitative research.

Introduction

Creswell, 1998, defined qualitative research; as an inquiry of understanding based on definite methodological backgrounds of inquiry that looks at a social or human problem. The qualitative researcher builds a compound picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of those giving the information, and conducts the study in a natural setting. The key to understanding qualitative research is the idea that meaning is developed because of the social collaboration of people in their environment.

Interpretive research is about understanding what those meanings are at a particular time, knowing how the social and or political environments shape those meanings is critical analysis. The researchers may question the frame of a certain reality (postmodern or post-structural research) (Bruner, 1993).

Types of qualitative research studies

Creswell, 1998; classified qualitative research studies into five types: Biography, Phenomenology, Grounded theory, Ethnography, and Case study.

The case (program, event, or individuals) study should be bounded by time and place. The case or cases are explored through detailed data collection (Creswell, 1998). Eisenhardt, 1989 described the process of inducting a theory using case studies; she stated that some features of her method are similar to theory-testing research. However; other features are unique for the inductive case study method for qualitative research. She added, the described case study method is iterative and tightly linked to data, and claimed that this research approach is suitable for new topic areas.

Dyer and Wilkins, 1991; criticized Eisenhardt’s approach as it would not result in new and better theoretical insights as would the classic approach do despite the fact the approach is not wrong. The case study method is a means for detailed description and analysis. The unit of analysis (not the topic under investigation) is what characterizes a case study (Merriam, 1998).

Rindova and Kotha, 2001, performed a deep case analysis of yahoo and excite in order to examine how the structural features and patterns of each firm function. They were able to examine the competitive advantages of these firms. The data collected were analyzed using the constant comparative method. This method involves comparing one unit to another in order to develop intangible elements of a theory. They introduced the notion of continuous transformation to describe inclusive ongoing developments required to keep and recover from a decline the temporary competitive advantages of these firms on the internet.

The basic essence of grounded theory is to develop a theory that is related to a specific situation (Creswell, 1998). Therefore; the work of Rindova and Kotha, 2001 is considered a grounded theory type of qualitative research.

In the ethnographic type of qualitative research, the research group looks at a cultural or a social group to describe and or interpret learned repetitive forms of behavior, customs, or ways of life (Creswell, 1998). Yates et al, 1999, studied how a research and development (R&D) group in a Japanese firm assumed an attitude and put a new electronic medium of communication technology into action. They were able to identify two regular forms of use. A) A community-wide use of communication types, and B) local forms shaped by members of a research team. They concluded that these two forms offer good examples for perceiving the way of using new electronic media in a community.

Conclusion

Qualitative research should be conducted systemically with a researcher’s clear strategy and should result in rationalizations that are applicable. It demands commitment and fieldwork. It is not an alternative to quantitative research, but together they can provide answers to any queries.

References

Creswell, J.W. (1998). “Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among five traditions”. Sage Publications, London, New Delhi.

Bruner, E.M. (1993). Anthropology and literature. Urbana: University Of Illinois Press.

Eisenhardt, K.M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), 532-550.

Dyer, W. G. and Wilkins, A. L. (1991). Better stories, not better construction to generate better theory: A rejoinder to Eisenhardt. Academy of Management Review, 16 (3), 613-619.

Merriam, S.B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rindova, V.P and Kotha, S (2001). Continuous “morphing”: Competing through dynamic capabilities, form and function. Academy of Management Journal, 44(6), 1263-1280.

Yates, J. Orlikowski, W.J and Okamura, K (1999). Explicit and implicit structuring of genres in electronic communication: Reinforcement and change o social interaction. Organization Science, 10 (1), 83-117.