My DBA Journey: The Research Plan – Paving My Path

The weeks and months since the DBA seminar, my focus in view of advancing my research has been on qualitative research.

Riitta Lumme-Tuomala, 10.06.2014

The weeks and months since the DBA seminar, my focus in view of advancing my research, (embryonic stage research, I might add…) has been on qualitative research, or more precisely reading books and articles on the topic. “Qualitative business research methods” is namely one of the compulsory courses we all DBA students need to take.

It is my second course, after “Academic reading and writing”, and an immensely interesting one, especially since it is quite likely that in my research I will be using qualitative methods only.

I am painfully aware, and I will share my apprehensions with you all here and now, that there is no way I can avoid quantitative business research methods during the coming months, it is a compulsory course as well… Remembering my struggles with the quantitative methods at Helsinki School of Economics way back when, my stomach gets a bit knotted knowing that I will need to get a hang of concepts like cluster analysis, exploratory factor analysis and structural equations modeling.  Luckily the professor, Sami Kajalo, is ready to have sessions with me, face to face, and teach me the secrets of all the above-mentioned mysteries…

The qualitative methods course is pivotal at this stage of my “career” as a researcher. To start with, the readings decipher key concepts of the philosophy of science, such as ontology, epistemology, methodology, methods and paradigms, all of which I need to understand and assimilate so that they become part of my everyday thinking and markers on my path as a researcher.

Just in case these fascinating concepts have failed to catch your attention so far, I quote one of the books I have been reading lately (Päivi Eriksson & Anne Kovalainen, Qualitative Methods in Business research, 2008) and shed light on the above-mentioned concepts. (p.13, Box 2.2)

Questions that the key philosophical concepts aim to answer:

Ontology
What is there in the world?
Epistemology
 What is knowledge and what are the sources and limits of knowledge?
Methodology
How can knowledge about a given issue of problem be produced?
Methods
What are the specific ways of data collection and analysis that can be used?
Paradigm
What are the conceptual and/or methodological models that relate to a scientific discipline during a particular period of time.

I will go further to these in my future posts, the above was just to give you some idea of what the issues are I am diving into now and probably to raise your interest in the philosophy of science! Fascinating, I tell you, fascinating!

Even though I am still far from even starting to write the actual thesis, or related papers, the basis is laid now. By drafting my research plan I look into the field of my research through other researchers’ work; as one part of the plan I will need to write a literature review and see what other researcher say about Talent Management and specifically about “who is talent and why”; how do organizations define “talent”. This is my first research question. My contribution will hopefully be a broader definition of talent to guide the practices of Talent Management in organizations. But it is far too early to say what the actual contribution will be.

I have also met with my supervisors, professors Tikkanen and Tienari to get guidance on my path. It is amazing how much information and reflections can be fitted into one hour of energetic and passionate conversation, and how much more confident I feel, at least for a while, after these discussions (and debates!). It is a fantastic part of the studies, this connection with the professors and the access to their expertise and experience. It makes me feel both privileged and responsible; they have faith in me, they take my topic seriously and listen to my initial thoughts with such intensity that my duty is to take all this into consideration and make sure that all of it results in a more sophisticated and academic approach to the research I am little by little starting during the coming months.

The summer ahead is going to be busy academically; I will need to read loads of articles, write reaction papers and summaries, write the literature review and draft my first paper. There are two theses I will read through and write my own view of them. At the end of the summer I will also participate in my first academic conference, actually two. Can’t wait to tell you all about them!

Until then, have a wonderful summer, enjoy wherever your vacation plans take you, and, as always, stay curious!

Sincerely, Riitta

Riitta Lumme-Tuomala is Head of Growth and Director, Russia and Talent Management at Aalto EE.
Aalto Executive DBA is a structured doctoral level program for individuals with considerable managerial experience who wish to make a significant contribution to the enhancement of professional practice. The program is organized by Aalto EE Helsinki.

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