Home > Identity, Literature, Project Management, Uncategorized > My MRes Research Design

My MRes Research Design

With defending my research at a recent research colloquium, I seem to have reached some sort of saturation point i.e. I think it is time to start the actual research!  Its time to get on with it, well at least get the ethics approval negotiate access with my case study site.

Today for the first time, I’m going to share my research strategy publicly, and would love to hear from people via #phdchat on twitter, via email michael.cowen@strah.ac.uk  or via blog comments.

So here goes people!

The working title of the research is –

“Manufacturing Identities?”:an exploration of project manager identity practices

 

Research Problem: Project Management’s predominantly ‘hard’ discourse is reducing its potential, and there is an emerging concern of this discourse and the project based organisation on project participant’s identities.

The aim of this research therefore is to:

  • Explore how identity practices such as Identity Regulation and Identity Work are employed within projects, project management, and by project managers.
  • To build research skills and gain research experience.
  • Add to Identity Literature, no specific project manager identity research found –  i.e. a “small gap” identified in the Literature.
  • Add to the Project Management Literature – “using new ideas and theories from Identity theories”

Initial Research questions i’m posing are in what ways do Project Management discourse, role, and projects shape their identity? (My interest in Identity Work), and in what ways are identity practices used by project managers use to get the project team to deliver? (My interest in Identity Regulation) and how are these practices received from project managers’ perspectives? (Again my interest in Identity Work)

Approach to Ontology, Epistemology and Methodology etc!

Ontology: Social Constructionist as identity work/regulation located within this tradition and I believe projects can be considered a socially constructed reality.

Epistemology: Interpretivist “…to aid us in gaining access to the conceptual world in which our subjects live so that we can, in some extended sense of the term, converse with them.”  Clifford Geertz (1973: 24), Yanow’s Masterclass SBS 2010.  In essence I want to give voice to the Project Managers and their ‘stories’

Methodology: Single Site Case Study and Partial Ethnography

I think the case study option offers many benefits to the novice researcher although the disbenefits to the novice researcher that come from multi-method or mixed method approaches has not gone unnoticed.  The benefits:

  • help in placing a research boundary
  • protocol for methodological rigours
  • guidance in theory building
  • help in what constitutes acceptable quality
  • grants the researcher some freedom to embrace the relative strengths of ethnographic genres such as partial, self, or auto ethnography.

Methods: Qualitative Multi-Method design  

Interviews supported by participant observation, and documentary analysis.  These are a natural fit in Case Study research, I can hear their story, see them in action, and read their written accounts.  This will aid the establishing of context and the compare and contrast during analysis.

Case Boundary will be a single company with in-depth studies of 3 project managers, across 3 different project typologies manufacturing, services, and IT.

Unit of Analysis: Role of Project ManagersI would have liked to do participants also, yet this is only an exploratory pilot study at the MRes stage.

 

Data Collection:

Step 1: Informal Meet and Greet [No recording]

Step 2: Walking the floor – “Building trust” [note taking, post]

Step 3: “Get initial case data”

Observation of Project Team Meetings (3-6)

Obtain Project Meeting Documentation

Informal 30 Min Post Meeting Conversation [note taking]

Unstructured ‘Project Manager’ Story [recorded]

Step 4: Initial Analysis & Design of Semi-structured interview

Step 5: Perform Semi-structured interview [recorded]

Data Analysis:

This is less developed but I’m thinking about doing a combined “Grounded” and “Framework” analysis i.e. try them both an see what emerges from the data on its own, and looking at an established identity lens.

Ethics:

  •     Identity research – sensitive by nature
  •     Informed Consent: Interviews, Observation & Document
  •     Transcript confirmation
  •     Reflexivity: private diary, outside of work time
  •     Confidentiality – Yet to be agreed with company
  •     All Data to be held on password protected, encrypted disk
  •     Researcher and participant safety

Quality:

While qualitative validity can be contestable e.g. “criteriology” debates, the principle in this research is to attempt for high quality through –

  •     Purposive sample i.e. 3 contrasting projects
  •     Case Study Framework including: triangulation, chain of evidence
  •     Transcript recorded verbatim and to be approved by project manager
  •     Rigorous data management using Nvivo
  •     Extended (semi) engagement in the field (as much as a working PM will allow)
  •     Researcher diary to be maintained
  •     Grounded analysis is being considered against Framework
  •     Secondary researcher to check coding and categories
  •     Transferability to other contexts via “thick” descriptions”?
  •     Hope of research that contains “project” managerial usefulness

My research plan – High level milestones:

  • Negotiate Access May-June
  • Submit Proposal and Ethics Documentation – end of June
  • Data Collection – July, August, September1. Some analysis (6 days observation, 6 interviews, and documentation)  
  • Data Analysis – October, November, December
  • Secondary Literature Review – “Ongoing”/January
  • Write Up – January, February, March
  • Submit April/May.

Outcome/Interest:

The planned outcome of this research is to have explored project manager’s identity work and identity regulation in the project environment, perhaps introduce identity theory to project management practice through publishing an article in a PM Journal, and finally and most importantly to position my future PhD research.

This topic will be of interest specifically to those involved in organisational studies, and theorists from subfields such as management, project management, and identity studies, not to forget Project Management Practitioners.

So what do you think about the design – can it answer the research questions?  I’d love to hear your feedback!  Leave me a comment :o)

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