Chapter 6 Week four

The data collection tools we have explored thus far—interviewing, focus groups, participant and non-participant observation, and document collection—can (and are) fruitfully employed the research methods of action research and case studies. You will find that these tools also have their uses in ethnographic research (this week) and ground theory (next week).

Following on from your excursion into thematic analysis, this week you will be taking a deeper dive into hermeneutics and semiotics.

However, so far, the course has centred on taking research methods (and various tools of conducting qualitative research) and looking at individual parts; e.g., case studies have been considered somewhat separately to interviewing. Thus far, this has led to a rather general understanding of the topics of the first half of the course. For example, how interviewing fits with something like ethnographic research—in particular—has not been considered.

For the remainder of the course, the goal is to start to integrate the components that, until now, we have been treating a separate and distinct.

First class


In this first week, we obstensively focus on ethnography as a qualitative method. However, the goal in this class is to take a more wholistic stance, and consider a suite of publications arising from group of researchers who collaborated in an ethnographic study.

Class plan

  • How is interviewing (in general) different to ethnographic interviewing?

  • What is the reason for those differences?

  • How have Smets/Jarzabkowski and their colleagues addressed the adavantages and disadvantages of ethnographic research?

Prep and tasks

  1. Read Chapter 8 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 92–103) — 30 minutes.

  2. Draw a concept map that distinguishes/highlights the differences between interview (as you currently understand it) and ethnographic interviewing (hint: you might find something useful in the Handbook of Ethnography on the SAGE Research Methods website. You should focus on the major features of the two data collection methods, and how those features are connected to one another — 45 minutes.

  3. Review the notion of transferability on the SAGE Research Methods website — 30 minutes.

  4. Read Smets et al., (Smets, Jarzabkowski, Burke, & Spee, 2015) and the the complimentary article by Jarzabkowski and colleagues (Jarzabkowski et al., 2015). You should concentrate on the methods (data collection and analysis) rather than on the topic of the research — 60 minutes.

  5. The quid pro quo of that research was primarily an industry report which can be found at Skim the report — 15 minutes.

  6. Be prepared to answer the following questions regarding the aforementioned research:

    • What was the over-arching research method?
    • How was data collected?
    • How was the data analyses?
    • How much work did the academic research probably take?
    • How much work did the industry report take?
    • Evaluate the quality of their research.
    • How have they achieved transferability?
    • And, any other insights about their approach they went about doing qualitative research in that project — 60 minutes in total.
  7. Go to Google Scholar and search for “smets reinsurance”, skim the articles. How many publications (and over what period) can you identify that Smet/Jarzabkowski and colleagues produced from their ethnographic data set? — 30 minutes.

  8. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of ethnography research identified by Myers. How do you see those playing out in the work of Smets/Jarzabkowski and colleagues? — 30 minutes.

6.0.1 Post class reflection

With the first class of the week behind you, it is time for you to reflect on what you have learnt and write-up your learning journal (Section 1.3 ‐ 90 minutes). You can then do your review your allocated learning journals of you peers (Section 1.3 ‐ 60 minutes).

Second class


More analysis of qualitative data :) As a result there are less topics for class, and more reviewing how you did the analysis and the results that you produced.

In many ways, thematic analysis is one of the most straight forward approaches to analysing qualitative data. But it is not without it limitations, and so we look to hermeneutics and semiotics.

Class plan

  • How do hermeneutics and semiotics differ?

  • How does that play out in the results of your analysis?

  • Give the three analsyis techniques you have been exposed to, which do you think is the one you are most likely to use?

Prep and tasks

  1. Read Chapter 14 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 183–196). Make sure that you track down and read the exemplar discussed on page 191; i.e., Myers (1994) — 75 minutes.

  2. Read Chapter 15 of Myers (Qualitative research in business & management, 2013, pp. 197–208) — 60 minutes.

  3. Read the paper by Barley (1990) on his classic study (1986 which you do not need to read) — 60 minutes.

  4. Your final reading is by Denzin (1987) and locates symbolic interactionism—re, Barley—and semiotics. It is dense at times, and you should skip over the bits that do not make sense to you. Focus on the examples of analysis — 45 minutes.

  5. Having read about thematic analysis, hermeneutics and semiotics draw a concept map show how they are different from one another (this should help you focus on how they are different in ‘doing’ them as an analysis technique) — 30 minutes.

  6. Read the ‘discussion’ on StackExchange Academia on work-life balance re teaching and research ( Do a ‘first cut’ analysis, first using hermeneutics, then using semiotics. What insights do you get? — 180 minutes (this is a big task, as you’ll need to really work to understand hermeneutics and semiotics).

    Note: The discussion is not perfectly suited to either form of analysis; then again, what data is ever perfect?

    Note: Think about if you should be using something like Dedoose or NVivo as you analyse the data.

Post class reflection

With the second class of the week behind you, it is time for you to reflect on what you have learnt and write-up your learning journal (Section 1.3 ‐ 90 minutes). You can then do your review of your allocated peers’ learning (Section 1.3 ‐ 60 minutes).

Given the scheduling, you might choose to do this at the start of the next week.