In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Research Methods

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Observation
  • Focus Group
  • Case Studies
  • Surveys
  • Experimental Research
  • Meta-analysis
  • Qualitative Analyses
  • Quantitative Analyses
  • Self-Report Data
  • Multilevel Research
  • Cross-Cultural Research Methods

Management Research Methods
David Chan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 August 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0010


The purpose of organizational research methods is to answer questions about an organizational phenomenon through systematic gathering and analysis of relevant data to provide evidence for the phenomenon. This process is directed at exploring, describing, predicting, or explaining the phenomenon by strengthening or weakening a theory, testing a hypothesis or prediction, or replicating previous findings. To evaluate the adequacy of a research method, it is important not only to understand the logic, strengths, and limitations of the method, but also to relate it to the specific research question and the context of use. Research methods may be reviewed in terms of foundational issues, research approaches, and study designs; data-collection methods, data analyses, and statistical techniques; and various major issues and controversies regarding their use. Research methods may be distinguished in terms of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Both approaches share the common premise that empirical data are necessary for answering the research question under investigation, although they may differ in the assessment of what constitutes appropriate and useful data, the adequacy of the research method in obtaining the data, and the interpretation of the results. Qualitative approaches assume that organizational phenomena can only be understood in terms of the subjective reality as experienced by the individuals involved, which are constructed by the individuals themselves based on their past and present experiences and interpretations of the meanings of the specific situation in question, which could be highly transitory and unique in nature and therefore cannot be generalized or replicated across situations. It is further assumed that the individual’s experiences, interpretations, and meanings can only be revealed and themes can emerge through intensive studies of the specific cases and situations and that it is not possible to represent or reflect this subjective reality in statistical terms. Common qualitative research methods include case studies and ethnography. Quantitative approaches assume that organizational phenomena have objective reality that results from lawful and predictable patterns of human behavior in organizational contexts and therefore could generalize and be replicated across similar situations. It is further assumed that these regular patterns of human behavior can be discovered and assertions about the patterns can be tested for their truth or falsity and that it is possible for the researcher to construct measures to gather data and analyze them statistically to represent or reflect this objective reality. Common quantitative research methods include correlational studies and experiments.


Many textbooks provide comprehensive coverage of organizational research methods, including basic issues of the research process and specific expositions of different research methods. These textbooks almost always begin with an overview of the foundational issues, including the research process, research questions, hypothesis testing, sampling and generalizability, and measurement issues, including scales, reliability, and validity. The bulk of the coverage includes discussions of study designs followed by data-analytic techniques. The large majority of these textbooks have titles that refer to their social and behavioral research methods, but these texts are also directly applicable to organizational research. Within management and organizational research, Schwab 2004 is widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive textbooks on research methods. Creswell and Creswell 2018 is a popular textbook that addresses both qualitative and quantitative research approaches.

  • Creswell, John W., and J. David Creswell. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2018.

    This comprehensive textbook on research design covers the approaches that use qualitative methods, quantitative methods, and a combination of both methods.

  • Schwab, Donald P. Research Methods for Organizational Studies. 2d ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.

    This comprehensive textbook in organizational research methods covers all aspects of the research process, including conceptualization, design, measurement, and analysis. A third edition is planned.

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