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  • Series: Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series x
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Roy Suddaby

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Trish Reay

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Nadine Kammerlander and Alfredo De Massis

Qualitative research is increasing in relevance for management in general and family business research in particular. Family businesses present an especially rich and interesting context to study processes and mechanisms in a qualitative manner. Yet qualitative research comes with many challenges and risks for which no practical guide is at hand. The purpose of this chapter is hence to provide some thoughts and guidelines to avoid common traps and mistakes of qualitative research. To do so, the authors build on their experience as authors, editors and reviewers as well as interviews with renowned qualitative scholars from the management field.

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Evelyn Micelotta, Vern L. Glaser and Gabrielle Dorian

This chapter echoes prior calls for a more pervasive and varied use of qualitative methodologies in family business research. The authors start with an overview of current empirical qualitative work in the family business domain in order to understand the methodological preferences of family business scholars and the methods they have gravitated towards. Having established the key difference between methods and methodologies, and the importance of linking analytical approaches to the building of theory, they discuss three exemplars of qualitative methodologies in the general management literature. The final section of the chapter elaborates on opportunities for deeper engagement with these methodologies in the family business domain and suggestions for enriching the qualitative toolkit of family business research.

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Kimberly D. Elsbach and Ishita Ghai

In this chapter, the authors outline how theorizing in family business research might benefit from combining qualitative case studies with quantitative methods (e.g., surveys, experiments, quantitative field studies) to provide ‘full-cycle’ research. First, they introduce full-cycle research approaches (that typically explain how researchers may move between qualitative theory-building methods and quantitative theory-testing methods) offered by organizational scholars. Next, through an examination of recent qualitative case studies in family business contexts, they identify some of the common questions these studies have answered and not answered. Based on this analysis, they suggest how research that combines qualitative case studies and quantitative methodologies might help family business researchers to more completely theorize phenomena of interest. In this way, they provide a set of exemplars for performing full-cycle research in the family business arena.

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Denise Fletcher and Rocky Adiguna

In parallel with the growing interest in qualitative research methods in family business, many family business scholars advocate the greater use of ethnographic methods to advance the field further. This endorsement rests on at least two arguments. On the one hand, there is a need to widen, extend, or deepen our perspectives to better understand the ‘boundary-crossing’ nature of families in business; on the other hand, the majority of proposals to extend ethnographic research aim to tap into the important yet underexplored complex tacit processes of family firms. However, ethnographic research in family business settings remains rarely published. This chapter reviews a set of family business studies that have used ethnographic methods and have been published in business and management journals in order to examine their orientations, main findings, techniques adopted, and epistemological/ontological stances. Looking forward, the authors end this chapter with a brief discussion on how the practice of ethnography is changing with reference to the visual and virtual applications of ethnographic principles.

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Andrea Colli and Paloma Fernandez Perez

In this chapter, the authors broadly discuss the use of historical analysis and methods in family business studies. They start by providing an overview of how (business) historians have approached the topic of family ownership. In the following section, they discuss the issue of sources and their meaning and role in historical research, discussing also in detail the advantages of what they define as ‘longitudinal’ analysis. The subsequent section discusses the qualitative versus quantitative approaches in business history, while a discussion about some current topics in family business studies that would particularly benefit from a historical approach concludes the chapter.

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Giacomo Laffranchini and Frank Hoy

This chapter extends recent research efforts by mapping the knowledge about family enterprises generated through case study methodology and its evolution over time. Its aim is to point scholars toward relevant knowledge gaps that can be effectively bridged through case study qualitative research. To accomplish this, the authors employed the methodology of science mapping through bibliometric analysis (specifically, co-word analysis and bibliographic coupling) and charted the intellectual structure of the field along with its conceptual building blocks. In an effort to guide future qualitative research efforts, the chapter also discusses the main objectives that case studies have served in the family business research domain, the best practices that scholars should adhere to, and indicates the most receptive outlets for qualitative case-based study. The authors’ analysis of the literature suggests that case studies will continue to be a powerful methodology for theory building and theory extension; nevertheless, only research efforts able to adhere to the highest standard for empirical rigor should be accepted in the field.

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Tanja Leppäaho, Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, Katerina Kampouri and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki

Despite the potential of qualitative case research (QCR) to embrace novel research questions and practices, it is frequently reduced to a single methodological template, namely that of qualitative positivism. The authors review and analyze case study practices in family business (FB), drawing insights from 88 articles published across various academic outlets. Their results indicate the impact of the positivistic template as the most commonly used one with 75 articles, but interestingly, identify alternatives captured by interpretivist and critical realist perspectives. They conclude with a discussion by problematizing the use of templates in FB case research. The authors contribute in four ways. First, they discuss, deconstruct and codify case study practices drawing on exemplars from FB literature. Second, they discuss common practices among the scholars of the qualitative positivist template and explain its potential for FB scholarship. Third, they discuss and outline the potential of alternative case study perspectives of interpretivism and critical realism. Fourth, they discuss the potential of multiple methods and the epistemological alternatives for enriching all the case study practices currently used.

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Navneet Bhatnagar, Pramodita Sharma and Kavil Ramachandran

Family firm philanthropy is the voluntary donation of monetary or non-monetary resources by these enterprises for the betterment of society. Research suggests that while some business families engage in philanthropy with expectations of economic gains such as tax benefits, others are driven by non-economic motivators such as reputational or political influence gains. This chapter highlights another understudied set of intrinsic philanthropic triggers: a controlling family’s religious or spiritual beliefs. To understand the influence of such beliefs on philanthropy, the authors focus on the Indian context, for three reasons. First, India is a fast-growing economy dominated by family enterprises. Second, this subcontinent is home to one-sixth of the world’s population, characterized by peaceful co-existence of the world’s major religions and theologies. Third, the 2013 changes in corporate philanthropic laws provide an excellent opportunity to explore the effects of religious beliefs on philanthropic activities of business families. This research employs a comparative case study of two remarkable social ventures launched by business families that are located in geographically diverse regions of this subcontinent. As both these families follow India’s dominant religion, Hinduism, this study enables the authors to shed light on other factors that influence the focus and geographic scope of philanthropic activities pursued. While each venture varies in its developmental trajectory, the founder’s indelible influence is evident in both cases. Exciting research opportunities are revealed.