How to Conduct a Practice-based Study
Show Less

How to Conduct a Practice-based Study

Problems and Methods

Silvia Gherardi

The practice-based approach to the study of work and organizing has been widely adopted in recent years, yet its theoretical and methodological systematization has only just begun. Silvia Gherardi expertly provides an overview on the topics and issues addressed by practice-based studies. By means of a series of examples drawn from the best-known analyses using this approach, the book provides methodological guidance on how to conduct empirical research on practices, and how to interpret them from three perspectives: practices ‘from outside’ practices ‘from inside’, and the social effects produced by practices.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 6: On rules, on knowing the rules and on ordinary prescription

Silvia Gherardi


A perspective of analysis proposed by practice-based studies–but which has a tradition within the sociology of work–is exploration of the gap between what organizational rules prescribe and what people actually do in their situated working practices. A classic study on this theme is the organizational ethnography carried out by Julien Orr (1996) on photocopier repair technicians and commented on by various authors in a special issue of Organization Studies celebrating the decennial of the publication of Orr’s book (Tsoukas, 2006). This chapter examines the normative infrastructure of practices: that is, how rules are resources for practical activities; and it does so by starting from the dual nature of rules. These, in fact, are stated in decontextualized and universal terms, but they are sustained and translated into practice in a situated manner so that they interweave with discursive and technological practices. To resume the metaphor of rock-climbing, rules are the handholds for the performance of practical activities, and they are practical accomplishments in the course of their application. The chapter also discusses the artefacts (protocols for instance) which give material form to rules, as well as the media–like speech or script–which mediate the maintenance and transmission of rules.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.