Handbook of Longitudinal Research Methods in Organisation and Business Studies
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Handbook of Longitudinal Research Methods in Organisation and Business Studies

Edited by Mélanie E. Hassett and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki

This innovative Handbook demonstrates that there is no single best approach to conducting longitudinal studies. At their best, longitudinal research designs yield rich, contextualised, multilevel and deep understanding of the studied phenomenon. The lack of resources in terms of time, funding and people can pose a serious challenge to conducting longitudinal research. This book tackles many of these challenges and discusses the role of longitudinal research programmes in overcoming such obstacles.
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Chapter 13: Dealing with unpredictability and change in longitudinal studies of organisations: a priori versus progressive focusing approach

Eva A. Alfoldi and Melanie E. Hassett


Longitudinal research designs are often very challenging for a number of reasons. The main challenges connected to longitudinal research are cost, time and cooperation between the researcher and the host organization (s) (e.g. Menard 1991; Buckley and Chapman 1996). In addition, when conducting longitudinal field research, many unpredictable events may occur that can affect the entire research process: for example, the organization may encounter financial problems or even go bankrupt in the middle of the process, leaving the researcher with incomplete data (see Leonard-Barton1990, p. 263). Additionally, when data are collected while the events, attitudes or activities are occurring, the outcomes are unknown (Van De Ven1992, p. 181). Moreover, organisational changes and transitions are part of everyday business life, hence organisations are not stable but dynamic entities (Zeffane 1996; Burnes 2004; Marks 2006). Consequently, even if researchers do not actually focus on change as a phenomenon of interest, it is bound to affect the research process. Even when the research is focused on a specific instance of change (for example the integration process following an acquisition), the researcher can never fully anticipate how the process will unfold. Unpredictable changes in the research settings, such as the departure of key informants, organisational change or changes in company ownership can make it harder to make sense of the abundant data.

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