Advancing Methodological Thought and Practice: Volume 12

Cover of Advancing Methodological Thought and Practice

Table of contents

(11 chapters)

This chapter represents a personalized account of ethnography. As such, I have cobbled together a partial confessional – as they all are – out of the two penny nails of past papers, books, talks, and personal experience. I write as something of a literary strumpet whose task is to “teach myself.” Meager subject it may be but, presumably, I have the requisite expertise. What I have to offer is a series of observation as to what my take on ethnography is today and how it developed over my career. It is an enlarging, booming scholarly and applied field – long escaped from its relatively insulated anthropological and sociological origins. As has become evident of late, the field has many adherents around the globe who subscribe to particular perspectives and practices that may differ in various ways from my own. However, the gist of this writing is to give an account of my own ethnographic perspective and practice which in part rests on chance and serendipity.


The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential of photo-elicitation as a data generating method. Photo-elicitation is rarely used for data generation, despite the considerable promise of this method. Our empirical investigation focused on people's emotions and experiences of dual systems in Kazakhstan, a country currently undergoing change from the old Soviet system to a new market economy. In addition to semistructured interviews, we use photographs in order to enhance emotional connection and recall. We use the imagery as a device to generate data, and more specifically, data on individual and social perspectives that are integral to particular experiences. We argue that photo-elicitation can bring out peoples' lived experiences of the social context being investigated. We explain why and how to use the method in practice.


This chapter highlights the value offered by photographic research methods to the study of organizational compassion. We demonstrate this potential by first briefly reviewing the history and usage of photographic research methods in the social sciences and the state of compassion research. We then describe how compassion emerged as a key theme in a field study that utilized photographic methods. From this, we identify four approaches that photographic research methods can be used to extend our understanding of compassion in organizations. Specifically, we clarify how this stream of research can be enhanced by the inclusion of photographic methods. We highlight critical research decisions and possible concerns in implementing photographic methods. The chapter concludes with additional organizational phenomena that would benefit from using a photographic methods approach.

The various methods gathered under the umbrella label of qualitative (Guba & Lincoln, 1994), defined as the study of “things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 3), offer many benefits through their ability to access, explore, and experience real organizational people and problems in rich detail (Van Maanen, 1979). As an example, photographic research methods—primarily qualitative methods through which researchers use photographs to elicit information during interviews and focus groups—often result in deep and nuanced data (Collier & Collier, 1986; Harper, 2005; Vince & Warren, 2012). Photographic methodologies are well-suited to the exploration of new phenomena because they allow researchers to get close to the lived experience and organizational processes (Dion, 2007), attend simultaneously to the social and material world in organizations (Shortt & Warren, 2012), and offer the potential to “mine deeper shafts into a different part of human consciousness than do words-alone interviews” (Harper, 2002, p. 23). Organizational research has traditionally been dominated by a positivistic paradigm that focuses on theory evaluation through the use of quantitative methodologies (Lin, 1998; Sutton, 1997), whereas qualitative research offers the potential to build theory by illuminating underlying processes and causal mechanisms in specific contexts (Lee, 1999). Researchers developing theory may be particularly interested in the richness of the data gathered with qualitative methods (Edmondson & McManus, 2007) such as photographic methods. Qualitative research is thus well-matched to nascent literatures that require inductive study about a phenomenon to generate foundational knowledge (Edmondson & McManus, 2007).

One such nascent research stream that could benefit from photographic methodologies is organizational compassion (Rynes, Bartunek, Dutton, & Margolis, 2012). In its current state, compassion research within the organizational literature has generated many narratives of experiences of compassion in response to a specific tragedy (Dutton, Worline, Frost, & Lilius, 2006), as an organizational capability (Lilius et al., 2011b), or as an organizational capacity that an organization can develop (Madden, Duchon, Madden, & Plowman, 2012). These stories demonstrate that the common elements of the compassion process are the noticing of someone else's pain, empathizing with that person, and then responding in a way designed to lessen that pain (Kanov et al., 2004); however, because this process is so individualized, photographic methodologies offer researchers a chance to capture valuable new information about this process and the experience of compassion within organizations. In this chapter, we describe many potential benefits of designing organizational compassion research based on photographic methodologies.

In doing so, we offer several contributions. First, we show how photographic methodologies can create deeper responses during interviews and observations that may lead to surprising insights for theory. Second, by suggesting some of the insights that have been generated about compassion through photographic methodologies, we offer novel research ideas for this growing body of literature. The following sections provide background on the development and history of photographic methodologies and review the studies and methodologies that have contributed to our understanding of compassion within organizations. Subsequently, we describe some of the ways in which compassion has surfaced during our own field study using photograph elicitation. Finally, we describe possible studies that could benefit from the use of four forms of photographic methodologies to explore more targeted research questions related to organizational compassion and also offer a range of other organizational phenomena that could benefit from a photographic methods approach.


Research involving interorganizational relationships (IORs) has grown at an impressive rate. Several datasets have been used to understand the nature and performance implications of these relationships. Given the importance of such relationships, we describe a relatively new dataset, Bloomberg SPLC, which contains data regarding the percentage of costs and revenues attributed to suppliers and customers, as well as allows researchers to construct a comprehensive dataset of IORs of buyer–supplier networks. Because of this, Bloomberg SPLC data can be used to uncover new and exciting theoretical and empirical implications. This chapter provides background information about this dataset, guidance on how it can be leveraged, and new theoretical terrain that can be charted to better understand IORs.


Recently, there has been an increase in the number and type of studies in the organizational sciences that examine curvilinear relationships. These studies are important because some relationships have context-specific inflection points that alter their magnitude and/or direction. Although some scholars have utilized basic techniques to make meta-analytic inferences about curvilinear effects with the limited information available about them, there is still a tremendous opportunity to advance our knowledge by utilizing rigorous techniques to meta-analytically examine curvilinear effects. In a recent study, we used a novel meta-analytic approach in an effort to comprehensively examine curvilinear relationships between destructive leadership and followers' workplace outcomes. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an actionable guide for conducting curvilinear meta-analyses by describing the meta-analytic techniques we used in our recent study. Our contributions include a detailed guide for conducting curvilinear meta-analyses, the useful context we provide to facilitate its implementation, and our identification of opportunities for scholars to leverage our technique in future studies to generate nuanced knowledge that can advance their fields.


Computer-aided/assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) supports qualitative and mixed methods researchers to organize, analyze, and explore data in a meaningful, and efficient, way. Successfully utilizing CAQDAS software can be challenging, particularly for the novice researcher. To assist all researchers 21 CAQDAS dilemmas are articulated. These relate to choosing, using, and getting started with the software, as well as writing about CAQDAS use. These dilemmas suggest there is no right way to use CAQDAS programs, rather the specific research project, along with researcher experience and philosophy, should drive the extent to which any project utilizes the extensive CAQDAS capabilities, while also encouraging the researcher(s) to drive their ideas and exploration beyond what they initially thought possible.

Cover of Advancing Methodological Thought and Practice
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Research Methodology in Strategy and Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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