IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Ethnography, Reality, and Truth: The Vital Need for Studies of ‘How Things Work’ in Organizations and Management

Listed author(s):
  • Tony J. Watson
Registered author(s):

    There is considerable potential for ethnography to play a larger and more mainstream role in organization and management studies. Ethnography is not a research method. It is a way of writing about and analysing social life which has roots in both the sciences and the humanities. Whilst it prioritizes close and intensive observation in the gathering of information and insights, it may additionally and potentially use any of the full range of other research methods. A powerful rationale for ‘good’ ethnographic work is offered by Pragmatist Realist principles of truth, reality, and relevance-to‐practice. Research based on these principles investigates the realities of ‘how things work’ in organizations. In doing this, it rigorously grounds and contextualizes the activities which the researcher observes and the accounts which they receive from organizational members. To do this well, researchers must avoid being diverted from the analysis of organizational patterns and managerial processes by researchers trying to ‘get into the heads’ of organizational members in order to capture their subjective experiences. Various moves can be identified which would encourage and enable more people to work ethnographically and to produce research which is inherently critical and is unfettered by attachment to any narrow specialist method, concept or ‘perspective’.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Management Studies.

    Volume (Year): 48 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 202-217

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:202-217
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:202-217. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing)

    or (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.