Methods for Collecting, Storing, and Analysing IVR Data
Our intention is this chapter is not centred on debating the merits of qualitative versus quantitative research methods. This debate has received attention in several forms over the years and continues to do so as found most recently in a special issue of the Accounting and Finance journal (de Villiers et al., 2019). Rather, we demonstrate that each of the methods can produce different types of information related to various IVR activities, such as selecting research participants, problem diagnosis, identifying potential interventions, revealing intervention design requirements, and intervention evaluation. Although accounting IVR mostly uses case studies, the disciplines of psychology, social work, and other allied human and social sciences where IVR originated also use experimental methods. Therefore, in this chapter we show that there are potential opportunities to employ different research methods to support effective IVR (see Baard, 2010). The idea of considering both approaches is also from intervention theory, which takes a non-prescriptive stance and provides arguments for and against different research approaches (see Argyris, 1970), similarly with IVR in social work (Thomas &c Rothman, 1994). In writing this chapter, we also aim to encourage those researchers to engage in the research approach that is most relevant and useful for answering the research question of the IVR project.
Mechanistic and Organic Research Methods in IVR
The idea of discussing mechanistic (quantitative) and organic (qualitative) research approaches originated from Argyris (1970). He debates how using rigorous and organic research tools can be used in IVR to increase the chances of generating valid and useful information about organisational problems, harnessing participants’ free and informed decisionmaking related to all aspects of intervention, and promoting participants’ internal commitment to the IVR project. Here, rigorous or systematic tools include the use of surveys or questionnaires, whereas organic tools refer, for example, to interviews, observations of organisational life, focus groups, and document analysis. Using rigorous research approaches and
Collecting, Storing, & Analysing IVR Data 133 tools is likely to facilitate an objective and valid problem diagnosis and analysis to obtain a general sense of the nature of the problem. Additionally, quantitative approaches help researchers to collect data that logically links to concepts forming a theoretical framework, establish statistical significance about the effectiveness of the intervention and any associated change produced, and enables researchers to generate theoretically relevant IVR. Following Argyris (1970), statistical significance in IVR means that there is a high probability that the outcomes or outputs of intervening did not happen by chance.
Conversely using rigorous research can be limiting as there is little or no room for: exploring and understanding how and why organisational actors’ actions occur as they do; understanding how and why the problem manifests in a specific context; accessing actor experiences of the problem; and exploring approaches to developing reliable and valid interventions. Unintended consequences could arise from only using mechanistic approaches. For instance, surveys designed by researchers generally satisfy their needs, helps researchers to retain power and expertise, while keeping a distance from the research participants. Consequently, it may create dependent and even submissive roles for research participants providing them with little responsibility and low feelings of essentiality in the IVR project (Argyris, 1970). Hence, mechanistic approaches may potentially polarise the researcher and the research participants, resulting in the research participants feeling ‘excluded’ from the research process. The researcher and the research participants remain in the etic realm and emic realms respectively, with little instrumentation to bring the two together to collaborate. Thus, people in organisations have little scope to develop confidence and trust in researchers, exercise free choice, develop their commitment to the intervention and the research project, and serve as catalysts for organisational and social change; this might seriously compromise the overall IVR project (e.g., Chiucchi & Dumay, 2015). Moreover, one would potentially generate statistical significance, but what about behavioural significance, which is integral to IVR?
Only using organic approaches might mean that information generated is too subjective, yet this provides an opportunity for achieving a rich or deep understanding of the issues that prevail. Using organic approaches supports getting organisations and people working in them to be committed to the process because researchers are using a more inclusive approach to generating information, for example, through interviews rather than a ‘cold, impersonal survey’. Baard (2010) offers a detailed view on the differences between adopting purely mechanistic or organic research. However, it is important to note that organic approaches increase the probability that research participants will help provide useful and valid information because the power between the researcher and the participants is equalised. Additionally, participants’ involvement and participation in the IVR work is encouraged, thus mobilising collaboration with researchers. In turn, collaboration promotes exercising free choice and being committed to the project and positioning participants to drive beneficial change after the researcher leaves the research site. Using organic approaches is also a way in which behavioural significance doing IVR could be ascertained. Baard (2010, p. 36) states that behavioural significance occurs “when an event (e.g. intervention implementation) results in a difference in the behaviour and the values of the participant system and constitutes a significant departure from the steady-state prevalent prior to intervention implementation.” Hence, behavioural significance becomes more meaningful than statistical significance when evaluating an intervention’s influence on an organisation and how people feel about how the intervention has influenced their everyday lives.
Consequently, researchers should think about delicately balancing the approach adopted with continuously generating information and analysis during the IVR process. In our view, researchers should also view mechanistic and organic research approaches on a continuum, where you can decide for yourselves in the context of your accounting IVR project what and how much of each approach is relevant and helpful to your research. We do not want polarisation that might come from adopting only mechanistic research approaches, as all approaches have their place. This said, organic approaches are used more in IVR, as we demonstrate in this chapter (see Baard, 2010, p. 20).