Chapter One: Finding out what’s involved Dissertations and theses come in all shapes and sizes Different departments / different programmes of study have different rules: e.g. will topics be given or must students find them postgraduate research is all about respecting these rules
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To my way of thinking, there are four reasons for choosing one group over another: the group should be fun, accessible, convenient and suitable. Lest these criteria be dismissed as frivolous, let me explain. Fieldwork is exhausting, difficult, psychologically demanding and time consuming. The more fun and interesting the group, the greater the likelihood that your interest and commitment will be sustained. A fun group can be just as important as a dull group, and a lot easier to study (Browne, 1976; p.56).
The most critical step in the research process is the definition of the research topic. This step must produce a clear and unambiguous statement of the objectives of the study. An unambiguously stated objective is essential in guiding the decisions and tradeoffs that are required in the next and subsequent steps (Jenkins, 1985; p.103).
Why? (page 12-13)
(1) What is the extent of current research in the subject area / research topic? Who said so?
(2) Is that subject area / research topic worthy of further research?
(3) Where does your chosen research project fit into the answers to the first two questions above?
Information as signal and symbol (Feldman and March, 1981)
Making Executive Information Systems more effective (McLeod and Jones, 1986)
What effective general managers really do (Kotter, 1999)
Information Media and Source patterns across managerial levels (Jones, Saunders and McLeod, 1988)
The Manager’s job folklore and fact (Mintzberg, 1975)
Executive’s perception of their information sources (McLeod, Jones and Poitevent, 1984)
We expect evolution
throughout the year
demonstrate the additional understanding and knowledge
gained by students in a particular domain and to show their
ability to synthesise and organise the material selected
within the context of a well defined research project
(1) to demonstrate the underlying assumptions behind the research topic (e.g. provide a rationale);
(2) to show that the researcher is knowledgeable about the related research, and research traditions in the subject area;
(3) to help in identifying gaps in the previous research within which the proposed study can be placed;
(4) to aid in refining and redefining the research questions towards placing them within the context of the research tradition in the subject area.
After Rosmann (1989)
a concise statement of the research objective and an outline
of the research questions that are being pursued
We still enjoy reading the book from time to time and are surprised more
often by the things that we knew then, but have forgotten, than by the
things that we know now, but did not know then (p.1).
March and Simon (1993)
Fayol (1916), Carlson (1951), Steward (1967), Mintzberg (1973, 1975, 1976)
Simon (1957,1977), Galbraith (1974, 1977)
Maslow (1943, 1954, 1970), Festinger (1957), Milgram (1974)
Asch (1951), Bavelas (1948), Lewin (1951)
“Re-engineering, like democracy, religion and marriage,
is theoretically a sensible concept. But like every good idea
promoted as a solution to all ills that ail, it has the potential
to serve the opposite purpose”(Strassmann, 1994; p. 119)
The important question is not how scientific the research design is,
but how it serves to generate the level of proof wanted in the research
and to reflect the state of existing knowledge in the research area (Miller, 1991).
The Department of AFIS has 19 full-time staff, with research interests in
managerial accounting, corporate finance and information systems (w-UCC1)
“Field method is not an exclusive method in the same sense that
experimentation is. Field method is more like an umbrella of activity beneath
which any technique may be used”
(Schatzman & Strauss, 1973; p.14, cited in Burgess, 1982).
a worldview that defines, for its holder, the nature of the world, the individual’s place in it and the range of possible relationships to that world and its parts (Guba and Lincoln, 1994; p.107).
The ontological question - which deals with the form and nature of reality - i.e., ‘what is it that can be known about the world’;
The epistemological question - which deals with the nature of the relationship between the researcher and what can be known;
The methodological question - which deals with the ways in which the inquirer can go about finding out what he or she believes can be known.
systematically builds his theoretical structures, tests them for internal consistency, and subjects them to empirical testing (Kerlinger, 1973; p. 3).
knowing ‘selection tendency’ to be a common psychological phenomenon, carefully guards his research against his own preconceptions and predilections and against selective support for his hypotheses (Kerlinger, 1973; p. 4).
To satisfy our doubts, therefore, it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but by some external permanency - by something upon which our thinking has no effect (...) The method must be such that the conclusions of every man shall be the same. Such is the method of science. Its fundamental hypothesis (...) is this: there are real things, whose characters are entirely independent from our opinions (Buchler, 1955; p.18).
We cannot look at human society without some conception of human nature. I cannot become a social scientist without facing the question who ‘I’ am. This constitutes a radical difference from physical science. It is possible to study the behaviour of material objects without being constantly brought face to face with myself (Trigg, 1985; p.205)
So many things separate the geologist from his minerals, whereas the historian or the psychologist are very near their objects: other human beings. It does not mean that researchers in these areas aspire to less accuracy or refuse the principles of reason, but that they refuse to eliminate what makes the specificity of the social sciences: the community of the subject and the object and the inescapable intertwining of the facts and the values (Todorov, 1989; p.10).
all of those decisions (some big, some small, but all necessary and consequential) that must be made without the benefits of a fixed, “objective” rule that one can apply, with precision, like a template or a pair of callipers (McGrath, 1982; p.13).
such judgement calls accumulate in their effects; and, indeed, they quite literally determine the outcome of most games (p.13).
one loses a great deal when one attempts to fashion sound research entirely on the basis of general decision rules routinely applied (McGrath, 1982; p.14).
The Research Question
The last column will prove useful in discussions with supervisors and potential interviewees. Links to relevant areas of the Literature Review can also be noted.
Data Sources and Informants
not all strategies can be pursued at the same time
Executives / friends
Books / Journals
Board meetings are info meetings for owner
Chairman / Owner
Executives / friends
Books / Journals
Irish Trade Board
Original marketing info
Main tactical decision making in informal meetings - daily contacts
on-going decision making
e.g. what to do with cash surplus (Irish operations, export, other opportunities)
Guidelines VS economic reports (1)
Merchant bank - investment in government bonds
Monthly reports and weekly phone calls
Distributors in Northern Ireland
Info about budgets + Budgets
Ideas / recommendations VS company philosophy + budget info
Monitoring + questions
(1) Quarterly reports and telephone conversations when specific events loom large: e.g. 1987 daily calls
General info including newspaper articles
(2) budget prepared every year based on 13 4 week periods. P/L produced monthly => variance calculation
More formal: request / inquiries 90% + instruction 10%
Feed back on marketing aspects from sales force
Main source of internal info
gossip and other rumours
Sales and marketing information
also production etc… - informal
`Computer department and Accounting function
Office manager for debtor and creditor control
} Smooth and worryless processes
The same after an interview
unaddressedaddressed others meeting
As a source
As a target
Personal contacts = persuade people that they are doing what they think is right even though it is your own idea => ask people their opinion and gain their commitment
Managing managers encourage and establish a dialogue + make sure they receive enough information.
Face to face are more successful for convincing people and asking them to do things.
Two way processes
unaddressedaddressed others meeting
Both lead to a modification of the message / understanding based on in-coming information
Regular reports about the functional area
As a source
Managing is about pulling things together. Past, present and future info
=> telephone is most suitable for that
but very short term
arrangement more than info - everything oh high importance
To use as bargaining asset in discussions with other managers
Regular reports from various
internal sources / activities
=> storing info
=> building understanding of patterns
Preferably on the basis of preliminary documentation - e.g.agenda or report
Same = symmetrical
Low value of in-coming info
Good to see other people especially when work involves other companies.
Not regular, but frequent especially to base future reflection.
=> never go the same route twice
=> keep your eyes open for everything not only for control, but to hear first hand what is happening
As a target
Communication Channel -Overall Analysis
Name of Written Written TelephoneFace-to-faceFace-to-face
executive unaddressedaddressed others meeting
Vital for strong linkage with customers and suppliers
regular internal meetings
invaluable for cohesion especially for specific topics
especially one-to-one: where you make the real discoveries!!
30% of time: with customers and also internally - better for specific problem solving
primary communication channel
30% of time n meetings with customers - also internal but only in small groups
limited to major decision making to avoid time wasting
informal meetings are everyday tool
only task forces (specific problems)
meetings should be used at a later stage in problem solving
mostly one-to-one meetings where the real work gets done
no way unless specific agenda!
Mots important channel!!
Intensive personal scanning = curiosity
also in graphical form to highlight variances
Pricing file is main channel of communication
could be better if information was better prepared - irrelevant or very important!
Too little time available!
Trying to organise paper-clipping service + dashboard for permanent info
personal scanning for new ideas
minor relevance (sees all reports as addressed!)
minor relevance or crucial as a tool to bargain
small or most important source here!
For external info only
too much to cope with + urgent to achieve cooperation in storing data
useful or the bin!!
Important source for personal development
vital source of contact with
remote sites - best way to show support
tours are the best way to communicate with wide labour force - systematic use of lunch and diners as well
crucial to obtain high value info
visits in remote sites are vital for efficient communication
invaluable but cannot be used all the time
to initiate contacts and be polite
Quite useful given the geographical spread of the company
to deal with exception or prepare a remote visit
always followed by written document
0% as a target (secretary) 50% as a source mostly accidental
restricted except with the sales reps - especially phone conferences - ideal to keep everyone abreast
too much time spent!
You have to live with it, but it cannot be controlled (culture)
quite important for relations with outside organisations
quite important and most flexible to get things done
best for qualitative impressions (especially phone conferences)
Super for problem finding and information gatherer
secretary screens everything
good for info not for action
Biggest item, but too much to manage properly time waster - solution needed
to verify that milestones have been reached - ie for specific queries only
quite a lot of info exchanged internally
mostly internal mail
especially as a source - internal mail to forward documents and comments
high frequency and low value
quite critical in coordinating the action of the sales force
very rare (too formal)
for the record only
very important to trigger action
(9 / 2 / 1) and 5 for specific problem solving
(3 /3 / 3)
(5 / 1 / 6)
(5 / 0 / 6)
(6 / 3 / 0) but 4 for
books and journals
First figure: crucial
second figure: overload
third figure: little or no use