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You are here: Home cito seminars CITO Seminar: Kathy McGrath "‘Making-up’ and ‘making-do’ in a research project: A surprising explanation of persistence"

CITO Seminar: Kathy McGrath "‘Making-up’ and ‘making-do’ in a research project: A surprising explanation of persistence"

You are cordially invited to the next CITO seminar on Friday June 6 at 1.15pm in Q115, the Quinn Building.

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Jun 06, 2008
from 01:15 PM to 02:45 PM


Q115, Quinn Building

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716 4728

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Dr Kathy McGrath - Senior Lecturer, Brunel University, Department of Information Systems and Computing - will present a research seminar titled "‘Making-up’ and ‘making-do’ in a research project: A surprising explanation of persistence". The lecture takes place in Room Q115 at 1.15pm on Friday June 6.


Much research effort in organization and IS studies has been devoted to identifying different research traditions and classifying existing work according to its epistemological and methodological underpinnings (Burrell and Morgan 1998; Deetz 1996; Knights and Murray 1994; Orlikowski and Baroudi 1991). Many researchers do much, if not all, of their work within a single tradition, which may indicate a normative or ideological position, while others adopt the contingent view that one’s position should be determined by the nature of the phenomenon to be studied. However, within the unfolding circumstances of a research project, such well-defined positions can seem like ‘ideal types’. Serendipity and opportunism play an important part (Zuboff 1988), while unpredictable events can have unexpected and unintended consequences for the course of the study. In this sense, then, research is ‘made up’, in that it involves bricolage, or pasting together the resources at hand (Ciborra 2002), such that we are always a little surprised or overtaken by what we do (Latour 1999).

This seminar outlines a case study in financial services ICT innovation where the research team produced a number of conflicting explanations of a research phenomenon which were not just epistemologically distinct but paradigmatically incommensurable (Burrell and Morgan 1998; Knights and Murray 1994). In the case in question, it was no longer possible to collect further relevant data following the organization’s merger with a foreign partner and extensive restructuring. In these circumstances, I was increasingly engaged by an explanation provided from a research position diametrically opposed to my own. I explore this explanation in some detail, identifying similarities and differences with my own view. The aim is not to argue, as other work has done (Ngwenyama and Lee 1997; Trauth and Jessup 2000), that additional insights are available by adopting a particular perspective, but rather to understand the assumptions made by each position and, crucially, how they make some explanations possible while ruling out others. I suggest that such a concern with process, as well as outcome, is a necessary part of responding to ongoing calls for more understanding of different research traditions (Weber 2004).

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