Preserving Theoretical Divergence in Management Research: Why the Explanatory Potential of Qualitative Research Should Be Harnessed Rather than Suppressed

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Abstract

Despite the evident rise in the number of qualitative studies that are published in leading journals, I argue that the rich tradition and hallmark of qualitative research is under pressure. In recent years qualitative papers are increasingly being fashioned in the image of quantitative research, so much so that papers adopt ‘factor-analytic’ styles of theorizing that have typically been the preserve of quantitative methods. This is a worrying trend as it leads to certain types of explanations dominating our field and at the expense of other viable forms of explanation. It also narrows the remit of qualitative research in general by channelling the theoretical contribution of qualitative studies in the direction of factor-analytic propositional or variance models. In this article, I discuss the differences between the distinct types of theoretical explanations that are associated with quantitative and qualitative methods, survey the trend towards a quantitative ‘restyling’ of qualitative research, and elaborate its negative implications for our body of knowledge and for the state of management and organization theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-383
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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