Managers and research: the pros and cons of qualitative approaches

Tagg, Clare; Skinner, Denise and Holloway, Jacky (2004). Managers and research: the pros and cons of qualitative approaches. In: Grey, Christopher and Antonacopoulou, Elena eds. Essential Readings in Management Learning. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.



Many managers undertake 'research' in the course of their normal work--for planning, problem solving, market research and decision-support--in which they have to gather information which enables decisions to be taken about a course of action. However, from our experience the methods they employ are dominated by quantitative techniques, augmented by an interview or questionnaire survey from which qualitative data remains unused. Yet many of the issues managers investigate are complex, messy, and involve a range of stakeholders with different concerns and perceptions. These are circumstances in which qualitative research could offer a richness and depth of understanding unlikely to be achieved with quantitative approaches. This paper describes three cases in which the authors supported practising managers in their wish to identify and use qualitative approaches in their 'research'. We describe the processes which took place and the managers' experience of using the qualitative approaches. We then reflect on the potential and the problems for the wider use of qualitative research, methods by managers.

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