Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series
Edited by Keith Townsend, Rebecca Loudoun and David Lewin
Chapter 1: Qualitative research in HRM: innovation over stagnation
Qualitative research methods are now common in social sciences and particularly research on relations at work such as industrial relations, industrial sociology and human resource management (HRM). However, to date semi-structured interviews and in-depth interviews seem to dominate publications, with occasional job observation and ethnographical studies appearing. This book explores the actual and potential contribution of qualitative research methods to progressing understanding in the broadly interpreted field of HRM and considers innovative methods to broaden inquiry further. Miles, a seminal writer in these methods, noted in the 1970s that “qualitative data tend to overload the research badly at almost every point: the sheer range of phenomena to be observed, the recorded volume of notes; the time required for write up, coding, and analysis can all be overwhelming” (1979, p. 590). Significant technological developments have occurred since this time with, for example, digital recorders, ubiquitous desktop and notebook computers and hand-held devices (for example, personal mobile phones) that can be used for video and photographic recording now readily available. Additionally, transcription software (for example, Dragon Naturally Speaking) and analysis software (for example, NVivo) have been designed to support the qualitative researcher. This rapid development and technology and software has allowed the validity of qualitative techniques to flourish in recent decades providing new insights to data and also allowing researchers to experiment with qualitative data collection techniques that otherwise might have been impossible, or too costly.