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Tracking Disasters: Researching at the Edge of Chaos

Research in Times of Crisis

ISBN: 978-1-80071-798-5, eISBN: 978-1-80071-797-8

Publication date: 20 September 2021


This essay, invited by the editors, provides a retrospective overview of Robert Gephart's career using qualitative research methods to study disasters, and disseminating findings from the research in important management and organizational journals. Dr Gephart's work is associated with many methodological innovations. These include early use of grounded theory; early application of text analysis software to support analysis of extensive documentary data sets including legal proceedings and transcripts; development of ethnostatistics to explore risk assessment; explicating and elaborating abductive processes during the research experience; and using an autoethnographic approach to embed data from his own life in his research (before the term autoethnography was in common use). His contributions to the area of disasters and research methods innovations are wide ranging and provide tools for improving our understanding of risks and crises, and for managing them.




Good research is a collective, not individual, effort. My risk and crisis research would not have been possible without the help of the undergraduate and graduate research assistants, colleagues, my family and others, including the subjects of my research. As well, funding from the University of Alberta and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided financial resources without which this research would not have been done. I thank the SSHRC/CRSH for funding my research throughout most of my career. Finally, thanks to Anne Smith and Jane Lê for inviting me to provide this career retrospective and for their work on this paper.


Gephart, R. (2021), "Tracking Disasters: Researching at the Edge of Chaos", Hill, A.D., Lê, J.K., McKenny, A.F., O'Kane, P., Paroutis, S. and Smith, A.D. (Ed.) Research in Times of Crisis (Research Methodology in Strategy and Management, Vol. 13), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 13-26.



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