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Interpretive research: A complementary approach to seeking knowledge in supply chain management

Jessica L. Darby (Department of Supply Chain Management, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)
Brian S. Fugate (Department of Supply Chain Management, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)
Jeff B. Murray (Department of Marketing, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 9 April 2019

Issue publication date: 15 May 2019

5228

Abstract

Purpose

Scholars have called for diversity in methods and multi-method research to enhance relevance to practice. However, many of the calls have only gone so far as to suggest the use of multiple methods within the positivism paradigm, which dominates the discipline and may constrain the ability to develop middle-range theory and propose workable solutions to today’s supply chain challenges. The purpose of this paper is to present a rationale for expanding the methodological toolbox of the field to include interpretive research methods.

Design/methodology/approach

This research conceptually illustrates how positivist and interpretive philosophies translate into different research approaches by reviewing an extant positivist qualitative study that uses grounded theory and then detailing how an interpretive researcher would approach the same phenomenon using the hermeneutic method.

Findings

This research expands the boundaries and impact of the field by broadening the set of questions research can address. It contributes a detailed illustration of the interpretive research process, as well as applications for the interpretive approach in future research, particularly theory elaboration, middle-range theorizing, and emerging domains such as the farm-to-fork supply chain and the consumer-based supply chain.

Research limitations/implications

The development of alternative ways of seeking knowledge enhances the potential for creativity, expansion, and progress in the field.

Practical implications

Practical implications of this research include enabling researchers to elaborate theory and develop middle-range theories through an alternative philosophical paradigm. This paradigm facilitates practical insights that are directly relevant to particular domains and move beyond general theories seeking generalizability.

Social implications

Social implications of this research are much more indirect in nature. This research encourages supply chain management (SCM) scholars to look at phenomena (including those with social implications) from a different philosophical perspective, which can reveal new insights.

Originality/value

This research contributes a rationale for expanding the methodological toolbox of the field to include interpretive research methods and also contributes a methodological operationalization of the interpretive approach. By reflecting on the nature of science and method in SCM, the study opens the door for creativity and progress to expand the boundaries and impact of the field.

Keywords

Citation

Darby, J.L., Fugate, B.S. and Murray, J.B. (2019), "Interpretive research: A complementary approach to seeking knowledge in supply chain management", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 395-413. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLM-07-2018-0187

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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