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Qualitative middle-range research in operations management: The need for theory-driven empirical inquiry

Ebrahim Soltani (Kent Business School, University of Kent & HBMSU, UAE)
Pervaiz K. Ahmed (School of Business, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ying Ying Liao (Department of Business, Economics and Management, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China)
Paschal U. Anosike (Business School, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 29 July 2014



The purpose of this paper is to highlight the potential of a qualitative middle-range research approach to contribute to the advancement of operations management (OM) field.


–To better signify such contribution, it takes insight from Merton's (1968) notion of middle-range theory as a means to create pathways of propositions that link substantive concepts and practices of OM in both context-specific and context-free operational environments.


The paper brings to the fore the argument that achieving the primary objective of filling the “theory-methods” void in OM can be achieved through adoption of a qualitative middle-range approach.


The originality of this paper hinges on the premise that theory-oriented qualitative field research that is able to incorporate experiences of different stakeholders of the OM intervention is highly likely to benefit OM theory advancement as well as OM practice.



This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council grant [grant number RES-000-22-4227]. The authors would like to express their appreciation for helpful and constructive feedback on earlier drafts of this paper to several colleagues at the University of Kent Business School (Canterbury) and the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow).


Soltani, E., K. Ahmed, P., Ying Liao, Y. and U. Anosike, P. (2014), "Qualitative middle-range research in operations management: The need for theory-driven empirical inquiry", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 34 No. 8, pp. 1003-1027.



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