First problem was to choose some suitable papers: hopefully some good, some bad and some OK but with obvious possibilities for improvement. Unfortunately I really couldn’t find any good ones. It’s easy enough to find examples of bad articles (one of my favourites is Can total quality management make small firms competitive?), but I haven’t managed to find any good articles on ordinary empirical research in management. There doubtless are articles putting forward interesting models and theories, and there are good articles in other fields like medicine, but I have yet to find what I consider a good published example of the kind of empirical research we expect our MBA students to do.
Last time I ran this session one of the student complained, very reasonably, that I had not provided an example of good practice to follow, so I sent round a circular to my colleagues asking for suggestions, but none of their suggestions really fitted the bill. So I’m still trying to teach the students how to do good research, but without any models of good practice. My ideas about how research in this area should be done are so different from what is actually done that I can’t mention what I really think for fear of undermining the literature that am supposed to be encouraging the students to study. Help!
Empirical papers in the management research literature usually come in one of two styles – often called qualitative and quantitative. I don’t think this is a sensible or useful distinction (see Are ‘Qualitative’ and ‘Quantitative’ Useful Terms for Describing Research?) but it is the way the literature divides up, so I’ll deal with the two types separately in two future posts. And in a further post I’ll try and say what I think management research should look like.