Second order discourse: critically-informed research

Peter Bednar, Christine Welch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Researchers who desire to bring about change in organizational settings require approaches to inquiry which can go beyond superficial appearances and prejudice. In seeking to go beyond mere examination of socio technical systems researchers have developed a proliferation of different approaches. Many of these have drawn upon social and human sciences to ground methods and assumptions in philosophical descriptions. However, critically informed researchers, in their efforts to make inquiries into organizational systems, may find it difficult to differentiate between approaches. Many approaches to inquiry are guided by philosophical foundations. There are others, however, in which philosophy is explicitly applied as part of inquiry. The authors believe that, if we aspire to include active application of philosophical domains in our efforts at critically informed research, we need a language for reflection and interpretation. In this paper, we offer a taxonomy of orders of discourse on inquiry into organizational systems as a support mechanism to overcome some of these experienced difficulties. The proposed taxonomy offers a language for differentiation. Drawing on our experiences in developing methods for contextual analysis, the authors have recognized a need to reflect upon sense-making process, as part of analysis in practice. For us, such critically informed inquiry represents a venture in practical philosophy, drawing on hermeneutics and phenomenology. By conceptualizing a second order discourse on inquiry into systems, researchers may be enabled to move beyond limitations of socio-technical approaches and be supported in their application of philosophy. We suggest that the proposed taxonomy may provide a clue to differentiate between philosophically grounded socio-technical inquiries, and philosophical practice as an integral part of analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 5th european conference on research method in business and management
EditorsD. Remenyi
Place of PublicationReading
PublisherAcademic Conferences Limited
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)1905305265
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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