15: Doing Interesting Research with Jorgen Sandberg LIVE

With Special Guest Dr. Jorgen Sandberg

This episode suitable for everyone, but should be especially useful for PhD and early-career researchers!

Jorgen Sandberg

What is it about research that makes it interesting? Or, rather, at which point does a study become interesting (or not)? The more common answer to these questions would most certainly place emphasis on the results and outcomes of a study – i.e. the research is interesting if the findings are interesting. In their 2013 book – Constructing Research Questions: Doing interesting research – Mats Alvesson (Lund University, Sweden) and Jorgen Sandberg (University of Queensland, Australia) propose that the focal point of what contributes to something being interesting is found way before any results or implications. The focal point of what makes a research interesting has to do with the assumptions that go into the design of that research. 

This book is just as relevant for new researchers and research students as it is for more seasoned academics (albeit for different reasons). First and foremost it highlights the need to be creative and self-aware when formulating research questions. Alvesson and Sandberg, however, go beyond mere critique and also specific ways of how to overcome some of the issues that make research less interesting.

In the book, Alvesson and Sandberg develop a problematization methodology for identifying and challenging the assumptions underlying existing theories and for generating research questions that can lead to more interesting and influential theories, using examples from across the social sciences. They highlight that established methods of generating research questions tend to focus on ‘gap-spotting’. While they emphasize that there is nothing inherently wrong with this method, the overuse of it does mean that existing literature remains largely unchallenged. Alvesson and Sandberg show the dangers of conventional approaches, providing detailed ideas for how one can work through such problems and formulate novel research questions that challenge existing theories and produce more imaginative empirical studies. Joining us for this disc is Professor Jorgen Sandberg, one of the authors of the book! We sat down with Jorgen to talk about his work and get some clarifications about what is it that makes research interesting (and for whom), how is this relevant to new and experienced academics and what is the purpose of writing a book such as this. 

All researchers want to produce interesting and influential theories. A key step in all theory development is formulating innovative research questions that will result in interesting and significant research!

You may also download the audio files here:  E15

Read with us:

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2013). Constructing research questions : doing interesting research. London: Sage Publications, 2013.

Alvesson M. and Sandberg J. (2011). Generating Research Questions through ProblematizationAcademy of Management Review, 36(2), 247-271.

To Learn More:

Okimoto, T. (2014). Toward More Interesting Research Questions: Problematizing Theory in Social JusticeSocial Justice Research, 27: 395-411.

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2014). Has management studies lost its way? Ideas for more imaginative and innovative research. Journal of Management Studies, 50: 128-152.

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2014). Habitat and habitus: Boxed-in versus box-breaking researchOrganization Studies, 21: 967-987.

Book Review: Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research by Mats Alvesson & Jorgen Sandberg by Joanna Lenihan

Book Review by Professor Jean M. Bartunek, Department of Management and Organization, Boston College.