ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Getting inside the mind of an expert management researcher
Your learning through the two-way process of academic discourse
Who do we think you are?
Who do you think your audience is?
What’s distinctive about researching management?
Induction into a western tradition of academic scholarship
What’s your ‘academic comfort zone’, and how could you expand it?
Official expectations that you will develop your critical frame of mind
Expectations check-up
How well does your work match-up to your assessors’ expectations?
Are you a more critical thinker than you realise?
Experiences of thinking critically in your academic work
Helping yourself learn to think like an expert management researcher
Comparing lists of Dos and Don’ts
Maximising your learning by linking critical reading with self-critical writing
What’s distinctive about researching management?


The nature of management as a field of study affects the way that researchers follow the logic of enquiry.

Management is an applied and very diverse field of study focusing on the practice of managing and its outcomes, and on management contexts. It draws eclectically on knowledge from a range of social science disciplines (including sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science), philosophy, mathematics and economics.

  • The logic of enquiry for management research entails selecting from the array of theoretical ideas and investigative methods available from one or more disciplines.

The management field comprises both generic approaches to studying that draw on these disciplines, and specialist areas covering the range of management practice in different contexts (e.g. accounting and finance, marketing, organizational behaviour, human resource management, critical management studies, public sector management).

  • The logic of enquiry involves applying selected generic approaches to the investigation of specialist areas, and taking into account the body of knowledge that has already accumulated in them.

Researchers may not automatically be offered access for investigating management practice. Managers may be more willing to allow researchers to investigate their organization where they can see the commercial or personal learning value for them.

  • Access issues may affect the logic of enquiry through their impact on the choice of research questions that it is feasible to address, and on the choice of research design and associated methods that it is feasible to use.

Managers are capable of taking action informed by management research findings. They will have their own interpretation of what is happening which may not coincide with that of the researchers.

  • The logic of enquiry includes taking into account the potential for managers to take action. Engaging collaboratively with managers may be promoted as an integral part of the research design. Or the possibility of managers taking action may simply be allowed for as a possible side-effect of the investigation with potential to affect the results.

These management field-specific factors combine with those that are common to other applied social fields. What counts as knowledge or what will work in practice are widely contested. The social sciences are intrinsically value-laden ways of understanding and informing practice. While a relatively impartial stance towards management practice is possible, a wholly neutral one is not. (Even attempting to be neutral implies valuing the stance of neutrality towards the management practice!) Values underlie unavoidable choices over:

  • what is worth researching
  • the attitude adopted towards the management topic
  • what aspects to attend to or ignore
  • which investigation methods to use
  • what ethical stance to take towards those involved in the research 
  • whether practical use may be made of the findings.

But there is no consensus on the ‘right’ values to hold, so you need to get clear what yours are and be prepared to justify why you hold them.

  • The logic of enquiry includes consideration of the research values and values related to the topic being investigated