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Beyond the usual suspects: critically informed research

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All applications of research methods draw upon some underpinning philosophical framework. However, while in some paradigms this underpinning is made explicit, in others it tends not to be (Radnitzky, 1973; Nissen, 1984). Academic work is elaborated upon from within perspectives of many research paradigms. This has been presented in, for example, work by Burrell and Morgan (1979) and Radnitzky (1973). A number of researchers (e.g. Held, 1980; Honneth, 1991; Ngwenyama, 1991) have attempted to define and encapsulate the essence of 'critical research'. It has been suggested to encompass interpretation of social phenomena, and goes beyond this to examine underlying assumptions; it seeks for understandings that could support efforts to bring about beneficial change (Klein (2007). It has been further suggested that such work is characterised by: concern with substantive social issues (e.g. power, values); foundation in a cohesive socio-theoretical core; and a distinctive role in informing the work of others. Within this definition, critical researchers tend to fall into a number of distinct traditions of thought/practice. Reflecting on critically informed research, we can recognise distinctive traditions of thought/practice of critical research. Examples include: those influenced by the work of Habermas (1984) concern themselves with issues relating to emancipation of (other) people within society; Some thinkers e.g. those deriving from Foucault's (1975) discussion of external power relations, focus upon issues of self-emancipation; Others, e.g. those taking inspiration from work by Bourdieu (1984), highlight issues relating to social stratification and discriminatory practices in society. For instance, some concern themselves with issues relating to emancipation of (other) people within society. Some focus upon issues of self-emancipation. Others highlight issues relating to social stratification and discriminatory practices in society. Clearly there are other categories of critical research. In this paper, we wish to explore further two in particular. We introduce work by Gregory Bateson (1972) and Claudio Ciborra (2002) as complementary exemplars of critical systemic thinking. Critically-informed research from a systemic perspective involves a desire to explore the unique and to question assumptions – not only those of other people but also our own. As critically informed researchers of social phenomena, it is important that we specifically recognise the double hermeneutic involved, i.e. we are considering behaviour of people who are themselves consciously reflecting on their experiences, and whose sense-making processes are individually unique. In critical systemic perspectives, engagement with reflection and exploration gives rise to perception of emergence as a key feature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th european conference on research methods for business and management studies
EditorsA. Brown
Place of PublicationReading
PublisherAcademic Publishing Limited
Pages73-80
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781906638030
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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