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Experiments in Organization and Management Research  

Alex Bitektine, Jeff Lucas, Oliver Schilke, and Brad Aeon

Experiments randomly assign actors (e.g., people, groups, and organizations) to different conditions and assess the effects on a dependent variable. Random assignment allows for the control of extraneous factors and the isolation of causal effects, making experiments especially valuable for testing theorized processes. Although experiments have long remained underused in organizational theory and management research, the popularity of experimental methods has seen rapid growth in the 21st century. Gatekeepers sometimes criticize experiments for lacking generalizability, citing their artificial settings or non-representative samples. To address this criticism, a distinction is drawn between an applied research logic and a fundamental research logic. In an applied research logic, experimentalists design a study with the goal of generalizing findings to specific settings or populations. In a fundamental research logic, by contrast, experimentalists seek to design studies relevant to a theory or a fundamental mechanism rather than to specific contexts. Accordingly, the issue of generalizability does not so much boil down to whether an experiment is generalizable, but rather whether the research design matches the research logic of the study. If the goal is to test theory (i.e., a fundamental research logic), then asking the question of whether the experiment generalizes to certain settings and populations is largely irrelevant.


Qualitative Comparative Analysis in Business and Management Research  

Johannes Meuer and Peer C. Fiss

During the last decade, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) has become an increasingly popular research approach in the management and business literature. As an approach, QCA consists of both a set of analytical techniques and a conceptual perspective, and the origins of QCA as an analytical technique lie outside the management and business literature. In the 1980s, Charles Ragin, a sociologist and political scientist, developed a systematic, comparative methodology as an alternative to qualitative, case-oriented approaches and to quantitative, variable-oriented approaches. Whereas the analytical technique of QCA was developed outside the management literature, the conceptual perspective underlying QCA has a long history in the management literature, in particular in the form of contingency and configurational theory that have played an important role in management theories since the late 1960s. Until the 2000s, management researchers only sporadically used QCA as an analytical technique. Between 2007 and 2008, a series of seminal articles in leading management journals laid the conceptual, methodological, and empirical foundations for QCA as a promising research approach in business and management. These articles led to a “first” wave of QCA research in management. During the first wave—occurring between approximately 2008 and 2014—researchers successfully published QCA-based studies in leading management journals and triggered important methodological debates, ultimately leading to a revival of the configurational perspective in the management literature. Following the first wave, a “second” wave—between 2014 and 2018—saw a rapid increase in QCA publications across several subfields in management research, the development of methodological applications of QCA, and an expansion of scholarly debates around the nature, opportunities, and future of QCA as a research approach. The second wave of QCA research in business and management concluded with researchers’ taking stock of the plethora of empirical studies using QCA for identifying best practice guidelines and advocating for the rise of a “neo-configurational” perspective, a perspective drawing on set-theoretic logic, causal complexity, and counterfactual analysis. Nowadays, QCA is an established approach in some research areas (e.g., organization theory, strategic management) and is diffusing into several adjacent areas (e.g., entrepreneurship, marketing, and accounting), a situation that promises new opportunities for advancing the analytical technique of QCA as well as configurational thinking and theorizing in the business and management literature. To advance the analytical foundations of QCA, researchers may, for example, advance robustness tests for QCA or focus on issues of endogeneity and omitted variables in QCA. To advance the conceptual foundations of QCA, researchers may, for example, clarify the links between configurational theory and related theoretical perspectives, such as systems theory or complexity theory, or develop theories on the temporal dynamics of configurations and configurational change. Ultimately, after a decade of growing use and interest in QCA and given the unique strengths of this approach for addressing questions relevant to management research, QCA will continue to influence research in business and management.


Qualitative Designs and Methodologies for Business, Management, and Organizational Research  

Robert P. Gephart and Rohny Saylors

Qualitative research designs provide future-oriented plans for undertaking research. Designs should describe how to effectively address and answer a specific research question using qualitative data and qualitative analysis techniques. Designs connect research objectives to observations, data, methods, interpretations, and research outcomes. Qualitative research designs focus initially on collecting data to provide a naturalistic view of social phenomena and understand the meaning the social world holds from the point of view of social actors in real settings. The outcomes of qualitative research designs are situated narratives of peoples’ activities in real settings, reasoned explanations of behavior, discoveries of new phenomena, and creating and testing of theories. A three-level framework can be used to describe the layers of qualitative research design and conceptualize its multifaceted nature. Note, however, that qualitative research is a flexible and not fixed process, unlike conventional positivist research designs that are unchanged after data collection commences. Flexibility provides qualitative research with the capacity to alter foci during the research process and make new and emerging discoveries. The first or methods layer of the research design process uses social science methods to rigorously describe organizational phenomena and provide evidence that is useful for explaining phenomena and developing theory. Description is done using empirical research methods for data collection including case studies, interviews, participant observation, ethnography, and collection of texts, records, and documents. The second or methodological layer of research design offers three formal logical strategies to analyze data and address research questions: (a) induction to answer descriptive “what” questions; (b) deduction and hypothesis testing to address theory oriented “why” questions; and (c) abduction to understand questions about what, how, and why phenomena occur. The third or social science paradigm layer of research design is formed by broad social science traditions and approaches that reflect distinct theoretical epistemologies—theories of knowledge—and diverse empirical research practices. These perspectives include positivism, interpretive induction, and interpretive abduction (interpretive science). There are also scholarly research perspectives that reflect on and challenge or seek to change management thinking and practice, rather than producing rigorous empirical research or evidence based findings. These perspectives include critical research, postmodern research, and organization development. Three additional issues are important to future qualitative research designs. First, there is renewed interest in the value of covert research undertaken without the informed consent of participants. Second, there is an ongoing discussion of the best style to use for reporting qualitative research. Third, there are new ways to integrate qualitative and quantitative data. These are needed to better address the interplay of qualitative and quantitative phenomena that are both found in everyday discourse, a phenomenon that has been overlooked.