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Thesis writing basics (2.2) A guide to research design

This article summarizes the content of Methodological fit in management field research by Edmondson and McManus, published in the Academy of Management Review in 2007 (link to original article). This article discusses the importance of methodological fit in a paper. You can find related threads on the basics of writing a paper at the following links.

■ What is methodological fit?

Methodological fit in a paper means that the purpose of the research is consistent with the research methods, and the data collection and analysis methods are consistent with the research questions and theoretical underpinnings. This is an important factor in increasing the reliability and validity of a study. Poor congruence reduces the validity of research results and makes them more prone to generalization errors.

■ Key elements of field research

The main topic of this paper is ‘field research’. Field research refers to a methodology that collects data directly from the actual site. In other words, the researcher visits the site and collects data through observation, interview, survey, etc. to analyze and derive research results. It’s a very common method in the social sciences and works well when exploring complex phenomena.

There are four elements to field research.

  1. Research question:

The research question is important in determining the purpose and direction of the research. It narrows your topic to a meaningful, manageable size and helps you identify theoretically and practically meaningful issues. Research questions should be clear, specific, and allow you to predict the outcome of your research.

For example, a topic like “What factors influence employee creativity and innovativeness?” is a specific, answerable question with a clear purpose and hypothesis. On the other hand, a question like “Does corporate leadership matter?” is a bad topic because it muddies the waters and makes it difficult to draw conclusions.

2. Prior work:

Prior work refers to the review of existing theoretical and empirical studies related to the current research topic. Prior work is important when designing a study and interpreting the results. For example, when researching “What factors influence employee creativity and innovativeness?”, if you don’t thoroughly examine prior research, you may miss factors that should be considered in your research, resulting in an incomplete research design.

3. Research design:

The research design determines the overall plan and methodology of the study. The research design is determined by considering the research question and prior research, and can be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both. It refers to what kind of data will be collected, how the data will be collected, and what kind of analysis will be performed.

4. Contribution to literature:

Your research should make a contribution to the literature. Contributions can be academic or practical, such as new theories, new methods, or solving problems in the field. These contributions can lead to new academic questions and research.

■ Level of field research (Nascent, Intermediate, Mature)

There are three levels of field research.

The first is the nascent level, which refers to when research is new or has not been done much. Since the theoretical foundation is not established, concepts need to be clearly defined and measurement methods need to be developed.

Second, the Intermediate level is when a lot of research has already been conducted, but there is still a weak understanding of the subject matter, key concepts, and research methods. Common concepts and measurement methods are already defined and can be utilized to conduct more accurate research.

The third level is mature, where theoretical foundations, common concepts, and measurement methods have been established. The research questions are clear, and the statistical analysis methods used to validate the methodology and results are well established.

to identify and investigate key variablesto propose new constructs and theoretical relationshipsto develop or challenge certain parts of existing theory
Case studyIdentifying relationshipsStatistical studies (tested with a specific hypothesis)
Pattern recognitionExploratory experiments on new proposalsFormal hypothesis experiment
Qualitative dataHybrid dataQuantitative data
If only quantitative data is used, it is difficult to grasp the relationship to phenomena and tends to overinterpret

When using hybrid data, the measurement method is uncertain, making it difficult to test more than one new concept
If only quantitative data is used, it is less reliable

If only qualitative data is used, statistical support is difficult (the validity of the results cannot be verified)
If only qualitative data is used, you will only reinvent the factors that are already known

Hybrid data will only lengthen the paper and will not help you with your strengths (qualitative data will not prove your hypothesis compared to discovering processes and using only quantitative data)
Excerpt from the paper (Figure 1. Methodological Fit As a Mean Tendency)

As we have seen, it is important to know the level of the field you are studying and follow how you approach it. Until I read this paper, I had a vague idea that a hybrid of qualitative + quantitative would be good, and I could just throw in this method and that method into one paper, but I was shocked when my professor told me that a thesis should contain only the essence of my research in a limited amount of time/page… (of course, it seems that throwing in everything works for graduation papers…).


  • Methodological fit in management field research (Edmondson and McManus 2007)

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