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Qualitative Research Methods Group

Who are we?

Within the Department of Organizational Psychology, we are committed to a plurality of research methods and their underpinning philosophies. The Qualitative Research Methods Group is a community of practice made up of members of academic staff and current PhD students who use qualitative methods in their research. The Group is led by Rebecca Whiting.

Members include academic staff Vanessa Iwowo, Andreas Liefooghe, Kate Mackenzie Davey and Almuth McDowall.

PhD student members include Christine Brown, Helen Cooper, Sam Evans, Paula Fitzgerald, Shafag Garayeva, Kate Hinds, Jenny Kananov, Jeremiah Koh, Kirsty Lauder, Jamie Priestley, Jane Setten, Mark Stringer and Adrian Ward.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research comprises a wide range of methods developed from a variety of theoretical perspectives and underpinned by different philosophical stances. ‘Qualitative research… is typically oriented to the inductive study of socially constructed reality, focusing on meanings, ideas and practices, taking the native’s point of view seriously’ (Alvesson and Deetz, 2000, p. 1).

Within organizational/occupational psychology, methodological diversity has been identified as an important challenge (Cascio & Aguinis, 2008). In a field traditionally dominated by quantitative methods, this means enhancing the methodological options available to work psychologists. The use of qualitative approaches offers considerable potential for our understanding of key issues within work psychology (Cassell & Symon, 2011).

What are qualitative methods?

Typical methods of conducting qualitative research include: interviews; focus groups; visual methods including photo elicitation and video diary studies; action research; participant observation; ethnography, auto-ethnography; case studies; and digital research of online material including social media.

Methods for analysing qualitative data include: template (or thematic) analysis; interpretative phenomenological analysis; conversation analysis; (critical) discourse analysis; rhetoric analysis; plotline analysis; grounded theory; narrative analysis; sensemaking and psychoanalytic approaches.

Staff and students currently use a range of these methods in their research. Please follow the links above to their individual webpages for further details.

Examples of our qualitative publications

These are published research papers by members of academic staff in the Department.

Iwowo, V.A. (2015) Leadership in Africa: Rethinking ‘Development’. Personnel Review, 44, 3, 408 – 429. Winner: Emerald Literati Excellence Award ‘Highly Commended Paper’ (2016)

Kahn, S and Liefooghe, A P D (2014).  Thanatos: Freudian Manifestations of Death at Work, Culture and Organization, 20(1), 53-67.

McDowall, A., & Lindsay, A. (2014). Work-Life Balance in the Police: The Development of a Self-Management Competency Framework. Journal of Business and Psychology, 29(3), 397-411.

Stanley, L. Mackenzie Davey, K & Symon, G. (2014) Exploring media construction of investment banking as dirty work, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 9(3):270-287.

Whiting, R., Symon, G., Roby, H., & Chamakiotis, P. (2016). Who’s Behind the Lens? A Reflexive Analysis of Roles in Participatory Video Research. Organizational Research Methods. first published on September 29, 2016 as doi:10.1177/1094428116669818

Annual Qualitative Research Methods in Action Day

In May 2016, the Group hosted its first Qualitative Research Methods in Action Day.  This was a new event for the Department and featured a mix of presentations and more hands-on workshops by academic staff, current and recently completed PhD students. The aim was to deliver an informal overview of some of the innovative or less traditional methods currently being used in the qualitative research undertaken in the Department. Birkbeck alumni, current MSc students and PhD students from across the College were all invited to attend.

Attendees had an opportunity to talk to staff and PhD students about their work and to find out more about these methods and what these can contribute to knowledge and understanding in organizational research.

Following on from the success of the first event, further Methods in Action Days have been held in May 2017 and April 2018.

For more details of these events please follow these links:


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