PhD Seminar 2010: Social construction


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Presentation to LSE PhD students on Social Constructionist Research in Org Studies

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PhD Seminar 2010: Social construction

  1. 1. Social constructionist thinking in Organizational Research Katrina Pritchard 9.2.2010
  2. 2. Agenda <ul><li>My PhD experience </li></ul><ul><li>Why this topic today? </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental philosophical issues </li></ul><ul><li>What is social construction? </li></ul><ul><li>Reflexivity: a useful tool in research practice </li></ul><ul><li>Reflexivity exercise </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Study of social construction of professional </li></ul><ul><li>knowledge which combined ethnographic and </li></ul><ul><li>discourse analytic approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Key Research Questions: </li></ul><ul><li>How do HR professionals discursively construct knowledge and perform knowing? </li></ul><ul><li>What constructions of HR professional knowledge emerge? </li></ul><ul><li>In what ways are these constructions enacted? </li></ul>My PhD experience
  4. 4. My PhD experience <ul><li>03/04: (p/t) research design, lit review </li></ul><ul><li>04/05: field work, initial analysis </li></ul><ul><li>05/06: analysis, writing </li></ul><ul><li>06/07: reworking analysis, more writing! </li></ul><ul><li>Data: recordings, transcripts, field notes, documentary sources </li></ul><ul><li>Thesis: 93,000 words, viva 26/11/07 </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why this topic today? <ul><li>‘ .. To make unexamined metatheoretical commitments, and remain unaware of their origins, amounts to an abdication of intellectual responsibility which results in poor research practices.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Johnson, P. and J. Duberley (2003). Reflexivity in management research. Journal of Management Studies 40(5): 1279-1303 </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why this topic today? <ul><li>Whether explicitly acknowledged or not, all research is underpinned by both ontological and epistemological assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>An appreciation and understanding of these issues is important for both critiquing the literature and being reflexive about our own research </li></ul>
  7. 7. Fundamental philosophical issues <ul><li>Ontology: does reality exist out there? </li></ul><ul><li>Epistemology: how can we know? </li></ul><ul><li>Paradigms, Positions, Discourses, </li></ul>Naïve Realism Extreme Relativism
  8. 8. Fundamental philosophical issues <ul><li>Generate feelings ranging from intellectual discomfort to inadequacy </li></ul><ul><li>Prompt bitter, public arguments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Edwards, D., M. Ashmore and J. Potter (1995). Death and Furniture: the rhetoric, politics and theology of bottom line arguments against relativism . History of the Human Sciences 8(2): 25-49 . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Become the topic of investigation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g Zammito, J. H. (2004). A Nice Derangement of Epistemes: Post-positivism in the Study of Science from Quine to Latour . Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. What is social construction? <ul><li>“ Research from a social constructionist perspective is concerned with identifying the various ways of constructing social reality that are available in a culture, to explore the conditions of their use and to trace their implications for human experience and social practice.” </li></ul><ul><li>Willig (2001) p13 Introducing qualitative research in psychology. Adventures in theory and method (OUP) </li></ul>
  10. 10. What is social construction?
  11. 11. What is social construction?
  12. 12. What is social construction?
  13. 13. What is social construction?
  14. 14. What is social construction? <ul><li>Issues with the extent of construction accepted: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Weak vs strong construction are applied to different notions of reality (truth – essence) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extreme relativism is paralysing since no guide for action, not possible to distinguish ‘truth’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Too much attention to language displaces the subjects/objects of research </li></ul><ul><li>The social construction of social construction? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>So many different flavours </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problematic notion of quality </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Reflexivity <ul><li>‘ Reflexivity involves reflecting on the way in which research is carried out and understanding how the process of doing research shapes its outcomes.’ (Hardy et al, 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ the interpretation of interpretation’ (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ the ethnographer of the text’ (Woolgar, 1988) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Reflexivity: different forms <ul><li>about method: within the accepted rules of the game being played </li></ul>
  17. 17. Reflexivity: different forms <ul><li>about method: within the accepted rules of the game being played </li></ul><ul><li>about epistemology: broader consideration of our assumptions about the generation of knowledge </li></ul>
  18. 18. Reflexivity: different forms <ul><li>about method: within the accepted rules of the game being played </li></ul><ul><li>about epistemology: broader consideration of our assumptions about the generation of knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>about discipline: concerning social and political limitations and ideological functions of our disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>(adapted from Cassell and Symon) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Reflexivity: risks <ul><li>use as a rhetorical device in presenting research so as to “invite trust” in the findings (Hardy, Phillips et al. 2001, p534). </li></ul><ul><li>danger of “infinite regress” (Finlay 2002, p212) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>it is always possible to reflect further on one’s reflections or to ask additional questions. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>risk transferring the focus away from the subjects of research and onto the researcher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Knights (2006) suggests “the ‘other’ often being reduced to an instrumental resource for securing confirmation of the self” (p702). </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Reflexivity Exercise <ul><li>What are the dominant assumptions that have shaped/are shaping your PhD research? </li></ul><ul><li>Who has been key in shaping these assumptions? </li></ul><ul><li>What have you challenged/accepted/rejected so far? </li></ul><ul><li>How did you decide? When will you next review these decisions? </li></ul>