15 Management Research Maxims

Maxim: A maxim is a wise saying, especially one intended to advise or recommend a course of conduct…


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Here are 15 that I have picked up over the years:

  1. Start by spending time in organizations with managers – “ If you want to understand what a science is you should look in the first instance not at its theories or findings and certainly not at what its apologists say about it; you would look at what the practitioners of it do” —Clifford Geertz (1973)
  2. Learn from Karl Weick’s ploys (i) notice an anomaly, and try to explain it (ii) notice the level of analysis that dominates the explanation of something, and try an explanation at another level (iii) notice (or adopt or create) language that may enrich explanation and explore it e.g. “bricolage” (iv) notice common or simple activities or things and exploit them as metaphors (v) notice the context of an explanation, and apply the explanation to another context (vi) notice commonly accepted knowledge or practices, and pursue possible counterintuitive explanations.
  3. Don’t say that there is a gap in the literature…. explain why your question is worthy of research.
  4. Write your introduction section using the ‘minto / pyramid principle’:  what is the situation? what is the complication? what is the question? how will this paper help move us towards a resolution?
  5. The methods section is not a vocabulary test, an epistemology lecture or a research methods book… explain and justify what you have done.
  6. Don’t invoke the methods gods…. e.g. don’t mention Yin and Eisenhardt when doing case study work unless there is a specific reason to do so.
  7. Convince the audience by making it clear that (a) you have been systematic, careful, thorough (b) your findings emerge from your data (c) you have enough data (d) you have the right kind of data to answer your questions.
  8. Don’t just describe….. explain and theorize.
  9. If doing theory building (e.g. a grounded approach)….. reveal your theory.
  10. Display your data….. show that your findings are in there.
  11. Identify core mechanisms / processes that are general (e.g. the collapse of sensemaking) but how they manifest is situated / contingent.
  12. Try to put your theory into your title (e.g. the collapse of sensemaking)
  13. Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Collaborate with others to fill your gaps.
  14. The conclusion should state ‘so what’, ‘now what’, ‘limitations’ and how this can inform other work
  15. Length adds annoyance.

Do you agree with my management research maxims?  Do you have any to offer?  Add a comment below

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