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

  • Tony J. Watson
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    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’.

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2010.00979.x
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    Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Management Studies.

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

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    Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:202-217
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