The Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods provides perspectives on topics relevant to research in the field of business and management
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Journal Article

Is Research that is Both Causally Adequate and Adequate on the Level of Meaning Possible or Necessary in Business Research? A Critical Analysis of some Methodological Alternatives  pp1-10

D.A.L. Coldwell

© Jul 2007 Volume 5 Issue 1, Editor: Ann Brown, pp1 - 36

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There has been a recent resurgence of interest in both statistical methods aimed at generating causally adequate explanations in business research and criticisms of these. Running parallel with this discussion has been critical discussion on the adequacy of such explanations at the level of meaning and specific attempts to address this issue with techniques such as those used in grounded theory. All too often the two methodological approaches have remained separated from each other‑ as a qualitative and a quantitative mainstream in business research. This is partly because of the different skills of the researchers involved andor their different attitudes regarding the validity of the methods used. The Weberian methodological paradigm of explanation that is both causally adequate and adequate at the level of meaning has to some extent been lost sight of since Denzin's triangulated model was put forward as a possible solution in the 70's. However, the issue remains: is causally adequate explanation possible with statistical ‑type analyses and are idiographic techniques such as grounded theory able to capture explanations that are valid at the level of meaning? The paper critiques some older and more recent methods aimed at implementing statistical analyses in generating causally adequate explanation and qualitative techniques aimed at providing explanations that are adequate at the level of meaning. The paper reviews an empirical study aimed at providing such a complete explanation and questions, building on the perspectives of evidence‑based management and critical realism, whether such fully adequate explanations are practically possible or, indeed, fundamentally necessary in generating knowledge that is practically useful for solving specific managerial problems.


Keywords: Causal adequacy, adequacy at the level of meaning, phenomenology, grounded research, imponderable evidence, dialectical triangulation, methodological triangulation, critical realism, evidence-based research, dualism, piecemeal social engineer


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Journal Issue

Volume 5 Issue 1 / Jul 2007  pp1‑36

Editor: Ann Brown

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For Business Schools and management departments, research methods are emerging as a subject not only as a core for staff and business students at all levels but also of increasing complexity. The subject is ramifying into a number of separate but related issues. The four papers in this issue of EJBRM reflect a number of these current concerns:

The quality and nature of business and management research methods and the practical value of the results achieved (Coldwell)

The scale and nature of the ethical responsibility of organizations, researchers and students (Lindorff, Naimi)

The training and supervision of doctoral candidates (Iqbal)

Coldwell argues that although truly causally adequate explanation is beyond the capacity of social science and management research and that adequate explanation on the level of meaning also is, at best, problematical, nonetheless it is possible to adopt a methodological approach that is capable of producing practically useable research outcomes. He proposes a methodology based on critical realism and offers considerable help in the practical steps to be taken when following this approach.

Two papers consider ethical issues in business research and teaching (Lindorff, Naimi). Lindorff is concerned with researchers’ ethical obligations to participants in their research. She presents a fairly bleak view of current practice, contrasting the comparatively indifferent attitude of almost all published business research with the central role that ethical practice takes within medical and psychology research methods literature. Her view that business researchers lack training on this aspect of research is neatly met by Naimi’s paper. This paper argues that we live in a cheating culture and claims that there has been a decline in ethical conduct and “right thinking” in society today. It proposes that universities need to incorporate modules on ethics into their degree courses and suggests some of the topics that such courses might include.

Iqbal provides a road map for the process of writing a suitable doctoral proposal. He is particularly concerned with the range of choices facing the new candidate at each step of the proposal. He offers a structured approach for navigating these decisions based on his own experience.


Keywords: adequacy at the level of meaning, alignment, beneficence, business, case study, causal adequacy, critical realism, dialectical triangulation, dualism, enterprise integration, ethics, evidence-based research, framework, grounded research, imponderable evidence, informed consent, justice, metadata interoperability, methodological triangulation, phenomenology, piecemeal social engineer, postgraduate study, research ethics, research proposal, respect for persons, social sciences


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