Presentation & Discussion

“The Messiness of Qualitative Research: Get Used to It”

presented by:
Bernard McKenna, PhD
Honorary Associate Professor University of Queensland Business School;
& Sunshine Coast University.


Qualitative research is such a vital source for gaining knowledge about the human condition; yet, it still seems to have to prove its worth in a research environment that is dominated by quantitative empirical research, much of which still carries positivist traces. This can be dispiriting for postgraduate students and early career researchers.

The purpose of this session was to provide some positive reassurance that it is worth the struggle, and that like a parent in a household of children, one should let go of the pristine sureness of answering RQs (mostly generated after the data comes in) and embrace the messiness that is a feature of … well … life.

Bernard has provided some insights into the usefulness of qualitative research. But he also argues that we need to accept paradox, incongruity, and incommensurability as a fact of life. Among the current research he has shared are studies addressing the following issues: how can rules-based organisations like the defence forces create virtue-based leadership; how are women in leadership ideologically framed in contemporary Indonesia, which is undergoing a worrying growth in Islamism; how do workers phenomenologically experience unexpected leadership change; how does a “copper” identity affect organizational citizenship behaviour in the police service.

These are taken from recent work that Bernard has undertaken with colleagues and with his doctoral students.


Hosted by the co-chairs of the Qualitative SIG, Ass Professor Harsh Suri and Dr Heather Stewart (ABEN Chair), Bernard took the 36 participants through his views on the criticality of interpretive research. Participants were asked to share their views on several new works that Bernard has in publication with the underpinning of “rigorously defending your position, but always remaining open to alternative viewpoints and critique”.

To watch the recording of the session, please click >here<

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