Searching for a third way: self-justification

Mendy, John (2015) Searching for a third way: self-justification. In: Leading issues in business research methods. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, pp. 15-32. ISBN 9781910810378

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Abstract

Over the years, researchers have been exploring ways of dealing with the
problem of justification, partly to simplify and facilitate teaching its fundamental
role and partly to improve the quality of research-in-practice. Traditionally, justification
(or justifying one’s research) is linked to depersonalisation, formalised in
terms of criteria such as reliability and validity. The need for different forms of justification
has been keenly felt due to some difficulties with this notion. The question
arises: how can one depersonalise when one deals with situatedness? The
arisen situation has led to a plethora of alternative criteria for justification, such as
credibility, transferability, confirmability or recoverability and even usability. Each
of these notions carries different interpretations according to the research purpose(
s). My focus in this paper is to search for a solution of the problem of justification
(or justifying) in an area where it has received insignificant attention yet: an
area where people construct boundaries to their experiences by cooperating in
some task. Here justification can and needs to be explored as if new. In this area
justifying one’s research is not aimed at sentences that traditionally seek to represent
‘a’ or ‘the’ reality. Here, people construct boundaries to their experiences by
cooperating in, and thereby learning from, some task rendering the question of
justification one of identifying which task boundaries are to be preferred and learnt
from. The area seems to have exploded in the literature in the last decade or two.
An earlier recognition of this approach was Taylorism, as part of the tradition of
representing some reality. What is being treated as if new is the realisation that
representation has to be replaced by something else, as follows. What people are
able and wish to contribute to and learrn from, depends on what the collective task
is and vice versa. If people’s willingness to contribute to their development and
that of the collective task is frustrated, they start to resist. In consequence, the
problem of justification becomes one of linking the level of individual and that of
collective experiences such that each level learns from and maintains the other
even when challenged. If the latter is to happen, attempts should be made to demonstrate
the link’s uniqueness. This means that the process of discovery and protecting
each level’s learning and maintainability become justified and are combined
in terms of a process of self-justification. The justification process is exemplified by
the results of a study concerning the behaviour of employees in 4 organisations facing radical changes because of external challenges. It is described how certain
individuals are able to take initiatives superior to their managers’. Their activity
may be called ‘employees as producers’. They become autonomous learners and
contributors. Interestingly, they become able to link personal to collective development
and thereby to contribute so their companies become more responsive to
new challenges. It is argued that this means that they strive to increase the quality
of the link between individual and collective contributions to each other’s learning
and thereby self-justify that link. This type of justification is based on the equivalence
between finding a unique link between individual and global observations,
similar to the case of representation. Comments are added to contextualise the
problem of finding this unique link. In one it is pointed out that links between nonobservational
contributions are more severely restricted and more difficult to
achieve than links between observational contributions, traditionally implemented
using reliability and validity.

Keywords:research, justifying, coherence, procedure, learning
Subjects:X Education > X210 Research skills
N Business and Administrative studies > N100 Business studies
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
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http://purl.org/dc/terms/isPartOfhttp://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/19609/
ID Code:19611
Deposited On:18 Nov 2015 15:28

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