Friday, 25 November 2011

A Great "Researchable Question" on Scottish Football

One of my MBA students executed a great piece of research on competitiveness in Scottish Football.  To his credit he completed an A grade piece of work and we've managed to place it into one of the papers.  His research question could be summarised as "does sound business strategy affect competitiveness more than  league structure does ?"

Scotsman Article

Friday, 26 August 2011

You name it ... you can study it

My own interests are limited to the study of management and managers ... but as you'll see if you follow the link below, there's a PhD out there for everyone.  With topics ranging from industrial hygiene to leisure ... why would you study something as commonplace as management ?

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Blog ... Not Blog ... Blog

I started this Blog in 2009 because I wanted a place to put the answers to some "frequently asked questions."  At the time I was receiving a steady stream of calls from people thinking of applying for a PhD at Glasgow and heard myself repeating similar things during these calls.  I thought it might be helpful to have somewhere to point people at so that they could run through the material themselves.  I asked a colleague who said "what you want is a blog" ... but after I'd put some material up on the site I began to realise that it wasn't a blog so much as a web-site that I was constructing.  The early posts on the site aren't weekly updates in the sense of a typically blog, rather they are my attempt to summarise the main challenges. choices and issues that PhD students and applicants face.  So after a few months the site became a "not blog" ... to my great surprise, the site has generated a fair bit of traffic despite its "not blog" status.  With around a thousand hits a month and a healthy group of followers I'm therefore going to turn my "not blog" into a blog in the coming months.  Far and away the most commonly visited postings are the ones on epistemology and on gaps in the literature ... these will still be there for those that want them.  What you'll find in the coming months is something closer to a "thought for the day" format which is more typical of a blog.  Be sure to let me know what you think.  Meantime, I'm delighted to say that my "not blog" came third in a ranking of the top 50 online PhD sites ...

Not bad for a "not blogger" ... imagine what will happen when it turns into a blog.  If you're working on a PhD   ... hang in there. If you're thinking about starting ... stop thinking and start starting!

Oh, and happy summer


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ontological Oscillators and Ontological Purists

Burrell and Morgan (1979: 266) talk about the problem of ontological oscillation.  For example when trying to research a phenomenon that you regard as socially constructed you may find yourself "admitting a more realist form of ontology through the back door" when you come to try and operationalise your research design.  Karl Weick doesn't think that you have to stick rigidly to one ontological view for all time ... "if people have multiple identities and deal with multiple realities, why should we expect them to be ontological purists ?" (1995:35).  I sympathise with Weick's view that the issue is simply one of being consistent within a particular piece of research.  Contrast for example two recent pieces of work that I have been involved with ... one takes a constructionist perspective on relationships between clinicians and managers in healthcare settings (see whilst the other involved a survey of managers to assess their familiarity with key strategy tools (forthcoming in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management).  Both papers occupy very different space in terms of ontology, epistemology and methodology ... but both are consistent within the confines of what they claim to do.  Oscillating is fine across projects ... but you need to be a purist within pieces of work and in your PhD it is too risky to claim more than one position in relation to the ologies.

Finally, whilst shamelessly plugging my own work ... here are a few of the papers I have written on the subject of research methods ... who knows, you might find them useful.

D MacLean, R MacIntosh and S Grant, Mode 2 Management Research, British Journal of Management, Volume 13, Issue 3, 189 – 207, December 2002

N Beech, R MacIntosh and D MacLean, Dialogues Between Academics and Practitioners: the role of generative dialogic encounters, Organization Studies, 31(9), 1341-1367, 2010.

 P Hibbert, R MacIntosh and C Coupland, Reflexivity, Recursion and Relationality in Organisational Research Processes, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2010, 47-62.

 N Beech, P Hibbert, R MacIntosh and P McInnes, But I Thought We Were Friends ?, in S Ybema, D Yanow, H Wels and F Kamsteeg (eds), Organizational Ethnography: studying the complexities of everyday life,  SAGE: London, Chapter 10, 196-214,  2009

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Rising Standards

Getting a PhD has always rested on the same test ... can you demonstrate that you've made a contribution (see other postings on this theme).  As time passes, and more PhDs pass into the public domain, it could be argued that this are getting tougher in that there is less by way of unexplored "white space" out there.  Two articles from the Academy of Management stable of journals provide some interesting insights on this issue.  The first is from the Academy of Management Review (AMR) which is perhaps the management field's premier theory journal.  The editors offer some examples, drawn from past editions of the journal, of how to build theory by reviewing the literature.  They describe this as "review-centric" research ... as you work toward a final version of your own literature review, I would recommend having a look at what they say.

The second article comes from Academy of Management Learning and Education (AMLE) and it provides sobering evidence of increased competition in the academic world.  Journal editors, just like PhD examiners, make accept/reject decisions based on the contribution offered in a paper.  In the academic world, published papers are the building blocks from which careers and tenure are built (again see earlier posts on academic careers).  Using data from 1988-2008, the authors of this AMLE paper show that there are more more authors competing for the same publication space.  Over that time frame some journals have increased the number of issues published per year, but even controlling for the number of paper slots available in top-tier journals, the evidence is fairly compelling.  The mean time to achieve ten publications has grown from 6 years in 1988 to over 15 years by 2008.  Getting accepted in a top-tier journal is getting tougher.  Against this somewhat depressing backdrop, it is even more important to be clear about two things in the early stages of your academic career.  First, be clear about the contribution that your PhD is going to make ... this will certainly help you pass with minimum trauma.  Second, use every opportunity to learn to think like a reviewer or editor.  Most top-tier journals publish "notes from the editors" periodically and these offer a great chance to see how the editors make sense of their job.  Also, most of the big conferences feature "meet the editors" sessions and of course conferences offer the chance for you to get involved in the review process yourself as a volunteer.  Reviewing the work of others is perhaps the best way to sharpen your own arguments.

  1. Editors' Comments: developing novel theoretical insights from reviews of existing theory and research, AMR, 35(4), 2010, 506-509
  2. Trevis Certo et al (2010) Competition and Scholarly Productivity in Management: investigating changes in scholarship from 1988 to 2008, AMLE 9(4), 591-606