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From bricolage to thickness: making the most of the messiness of research narratives

François Lambotte (Laboratoire d’analyse des systèmes de communication des organisations (LASCO), Université Catholique de Louvain, Mons, Belgium)
Dominique Meunier (Département de Communication, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 3 May 2013




The research process is commonly viewed as a succession of linear, structured and planned practices that exclude informal and unplanned practices, engaging with the unexpected or the uncertain. The authors’ aim is to explore this aspect of researching in connection with the narratives of researchers as they oscillate between past and present, theory and empiricism.


The authors first draw on the concept of “bricolage” to validate informal research practices as researchers seek to lend “thickness” to their research. To deal with the apparent “messiness” of research narratives, they apply the concepts of kairotic time and action nets. Kairotic times are key moments in research narratives when actions, under tension, interconnect to form action nets, which, in turn, generate meaning or knowledge.


The authors analyse two research episodes. The first recounts how personal experiences and contingencies influence a researcher's choice of research objects and his associated theoretical reflections. The second highlights how some concrete difficulties in choosing a field and gaining access trigger a set of actions that force a researcher to review his initial choices and to reposition himself methodologically. Discussing the concept of kairotic time, the authors show the importance of context and timing and demonstrate how stories build around a gravitational point. From there, they discuss how the concept of action nets, breaking linearity, helps to envision research practice not as a sequence, but as networks of actions that produce scientific outcomes.


This paper provides an operational method of using kairotic time and action nets to account for, and acknowledge, the messiness in research narratives.



Lambotte, F. and Meunier, D. (2013), "From bricolage to thickness: making the most of the messiness of research narratives", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 85-100.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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