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Behind the Numbers : Questioning Questionnaires

Einola, Katja LU and Alvesson, Mats LU (2020) In Journal of Management Inquiry
Abstract

Is complex, ambiguous, and fluctuating social reality measurable? Sometimes yes, perhaps, but often not. At least not in the fairly straightforward way assumed by many researchers. This study is an ethnographic inquiry into data collection during a survey research project. Based on our observations of participants’ spontaneous thoughts and confusions as they filled in questionnaires on “leadership” and “teamwork”, we draw attention to hidden problems in much organizational research. Many respondents found measures ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading. We (a) underline the inherently interpretative nature of research into complex organizational phenomena, (b) warn against lack of reflexivity and overreliance on existing survey... (More)

Is complex, ambiguous, and fluctuating social reality measurable? Sometimes yes, perhaps, but often not. At least not in the fairly straightforward way assumed by many researchers. This study is an ethnographic inquiry into data collection during a survey research project. Based on our observations of participants’ spontaneous thoughts and confusions as they filled in questionnaires on “leadership” and “teamwork”, we draw attention to hidden problems in much organizational research. Many respondents found measures ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading. We (a) underline the inherently interpretative nature of research into complex organizational phenomena, (b) warn against lack of reflexivity and overreliance on existing survey instruments when we study complex social aspects of organizations, (c) identify five categories of possible problems, and (d) suggest paths towards better informed research that take context seriously.

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author
and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
epub
subject
keywords
critical study, ethnography, leadership, qualitative study, quality of research, quantitative study, questionnaires, research methods, survey studies, teams
in
Journal of Management Inquiry
publisher
SAGE Publications
external identifiers
  • scopus:85088044011
ISSN
1056-4926
DOI
10.1177/1056492620938139
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
649212bd-16cf-4d44-934b-e3a544a4d6bb
date added to LUP
2020-07-30 10:42:26
date last changed
2020-09-23 08:13:47
@article{649212bd-16cf-4d44-934b-e3a544a4d6bb,
  abstract     = {<p>Is complex, ambiguous, and fluctuating social reality measurable? Sometimes yes, perhaps, but often not. At least not in the fairly straightforward way assumed by many researchers. This study is an ethnographic inquiry into data collection during a survey research project. Based on our observations of participants’ spontaneous thoughts and confusions as they filled in questionnaires on “leadership” and “teamwork”, we draw attention to hidden problems in much organizational research. Many respondents found measures ambiguous, irrelevant, or misleading. We (a) underline the inherently interpretative nature of research into complex organizational phenomena, (b) warn against lack of reflexivity and overreliance on existing survey instruments when we study complex social aspects of organizations, (c) identify five categories of possible problems, and (d) suggest paths towards better informed research that take context seriously.</p>},
  author       = {Einola, Katja and Alvesson, Mats},
  issn         = {1056-4926},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {07},
  publisher    = {SAGE Publications},
  series       = {Journal of Management Inquiry},
  title        = {Behind the Numbers : Questioning Questionnaires},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1056492620938139},
  doi          = {10.1177/1056492620938139},
  year         = {2020},
}