Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research: A Practical Guide

Helen Bussell (University of Teesside)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 1 August 2000



Bussell, H. (2000), "Qualitative Methods and Analysis in Organizational Research: A Practical Guide", The Learning Organization, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 169-170. https://doi.org/10.1108/tlo.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Interest in qualitative research over the last ten to 15 years has been phenomenal. The range of qualitative techniques being used are wide and varied. There is no one method or one practice which one can call “qualitative research” (Denzin and Lincoln, 1998). Tools are developed to provide insights and knowledge into the human disciplines. This volume of readings is a worthwhile contribution to the understanding of the various methods available. It clearly shows the diversity of qualitative methods which can be drawn on and draws out the differences between them. It also offers practical assistance to those researchers who wish to use qualitative techniques but may be in need of some direction as to their application.

However, this is more than a recipe book for those wishing to undertake qualitative work. Authors share their experiences of adopting a qualitative approach with the reader. Each chapter is presented as a discrete piece of work and reports on a qualitative study carried out by the author which is used to illustrate how that particular method can be applied. A fairly well balanced approach is adopted throughout with a rationale for adopting the chosen research method. Recommendations are presented for the application of the method but potential problems are also clearly indicated. Each author assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the method used both in the context in which it was applied and more generally.

A wide variety of applications are offered including life histories, critical incident techniques, stories, pictorial representation and soft systems analysis. One might expect some of the techniques discussed to be considered as quantitative methods of research. However, Jo Silvester in her account of attributional coding and Nigel King’s explanation of template analysis demonstrate how these techniques can be used qualitatively. Gillian Symon outlines how diaries can be used in either a structured or unstructured way, depending on the research design.

Nearly all the studies selected rely on verbal research instruments. David Stiles prefers to adopt an approach which uses images rather than verbal interaction. This provides greater flexibility to generate creative thinking and enables him to explore latent perceptions. The result is the emergence of organizational elements not previously identified.

One of the major difficulties in the use of qualitative techniques is the limited guidelines available for data analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994). Of particular value in this set of readings is the detail of how the data were handled and the ways in which a framework was adopted for analysing data in each case. A number of the authors focus on the analysis and interpretation of data. For example, Phil Johnson’s discussion of analytic induction and Dalvir Samra‐Fredericks’ report of conversation analysis. By producing examples of the application of these techniques the authors clarify the procedures employed. Of particular interest in this technological age was Yiannis Gabriel’s application of a computer database package to analyse the transcripts.

Although the examples selected focus on qualitative methods in organizational research the book would be of value to researchers and students in all fields whose work and/or interests may lead them towards a qualitative approach. The selection presented here demonstrates the way a particular technique can be used within a number of different types of organizations and sectors and in different disciplines.

The enthusiasm of the authors for the qualitative approach to research comes through quite strongly in their writings. For those researchers already committed to a qualitative perspective this volume gives an insight into techniques perhaps not previously touched. It will give encouragement to other researchers to go out and try these innovative and exciting methods. By demonstrating that qualitative and quantitative approaches are not mutually exclusive it may even inspire the quantitative researcher to adopt a more flexible approach.

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