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Thick performances, not just thick descriptions: the processual nature of doing qualitative research

Viviane Sergi (Department of Management, HEC Montre´al, Montre´al, Canada)
Anette Hallin (Department of Industrial Economics and Management, The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore the consequences of doing research that uses qualitative approaches. Anchored in a process ontology, this paper starts from the idea that doing research implies a performance in which the researcher is fully immersed, and explores the implications of the processual nature of doing research.


The paper takes use of vignettes; short stories of research in action, told by different researchers that are analyzed to reveal the richness of the situation in question. These vignettes illustrate how performing qualitative research is an emotional, embodied and deeply personal experience.


The authors show that when grounding qualitative research in a process ontology, research is the fruit of the researcher's performance: doing research is performing it, and performing it cannot happen without feeling a wide range of emotions, without appealing to who we are or without questioning what we are doing. Thus, this exploration reveals that doing research is a rich, complex and multi‐level experience that mobilizes the whole person conducting this inquiry – that is, that doing research takes the form of a thick performance.


The value of the paper lies in its roots in a process ontology to understand the doing of qualitative research, which makes it possible to fully acknowledge the importance of subjectivity in all the steps that make up the research endeavor, from the fieldwork to writing – thus offering not only a richer image of what research is about, but an image that is also closer to the experience of doing it.



Sergi, V. and Hallin, A. (2011), "Thick performances, not just thick descriptions: the processual nature of doing qualitative research", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 191-208.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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