Ruminations on introducing a psychological perspective

by Lee on March 11, 2011

There is a balance to be struck, I believe, between the professional work I have done as part of this doctorate (blogging, vidcasting, presentations, report-writing, etc) and the academic requirements of the doctoral programme.

The uni’s page about School of Communication, International Studies and Languages higher degrees states, in relevant part:

Provide a research-based program which will enable practitioners in the field of communication to link knowledge, research skills and professional skills to enrich their personal intellectual growth and advance their professional contribution to society.

Previous iterations of this statement included a focus on practitioner works undertaken in order to grow the profession’s knowledge base.

Now that the focus has changed to one of greater academic research, I wonder if my idea of interviewing senior business communicators (with 15+ years of experience in business communication work) is enough to satisfy the requirements of the degree.

Up until now I have shunned any recognition of my undergraduate studies in psychology, other than using them to gain access to the doctoral programme I’m on. I’ve shunned this recognition for personal reasons. But perhaps the time is ripe to at least tap into the expertise of others and introduce aspects of psychological research.

I’ve stumbled across a useful paper: Lynne Millward, A. Lutte and R. Purvis, 2005. Depression and the perpetuation of an incapacitated identity as an inhibitor of return to work, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Volume 12, Issue 5, pages 565–573.

In that paper the researchers used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)* to analyse the responses from semi-structured interviews.

This particular method appeals to me, but with reservation.

I can understand its use in investigating phenomena such as depression, but whilst ‘social media’ has been called a phenomenon, I’m not sure that it strictly is; rather it is a collection of tools and technologies that allow for conversation and communication. The technologies underpinning social media have been around for quite a while; even though it might be something ‘new’ to business, social media per se has been around for over a decade. Is social media something other than a ‘phenomenon’?

If I can shoe-horn IPA and Tajfel & Turner’s Social Identity Theory (SIT)^ together in some way, perhaps that will be ‘academic’ enough to satisfy the examiners.

Why SIT? It seems to me that in looking at what experienced communicators believe has happened to them and their work life, they will be separating out their work identity from their home/personal identity. SIT combined with IPA might make a formal enough combination to get me through.

Or am I biting off more than I can chew and making life too hard for myself? There’s a horrific amount of reading I have to do to bring me up-to-speed on: 1. social media through academic eyes; 2. IPA; and 3. SIT.

I ponder, I ponder…


* Smith J.A. (1995) Semi-structured interviewing and qualitative
analysis. In: Rethinking Methods in Psychology. (eds Smith,
J.A., Harre, R. & Langenhove, L.V.), pp. 9–26. Sage, London

Murray M. & Chamberlain K., eds (1999) Qualitative Health
Psychology: Theories and Methods. Sage, London

^ Tajfel, Henri; Turner, John (1979). "An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict". In Austin, William G.; Worchel, Stephen. The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole. pp. 94–109

  • lynne

    Forgive me for being blunt and very academic !:>) but IPA and SIT just don’t go together at all on many levels, epistemological and theoretical. I would steer clear of IPA for what you want to achieve – although I must admit not to being too clear on what your research question is or research objectives overall.

    The best source on SIT in its most current spin is Haslam, S.A. (2004). Psychology in organizations: A social identity approach. Sage: London.

    Also look at British Journal of Management for recent paper by myself Millward and Postmes 2011 and also one from Organization Science in 2007 Millward, Haslam and Postmes – both using SIT in the most recent rendition.

    Both papers will give you a reference list.

    First thing to do is be clear about your question and what evidence in particular you want to secure and to what ends?

    Second thing is to formulate the issue/question using SIT if you decide that this is the way forward.

    If you want to use a qualitative approach via semi-structured interviews I would use Thematic Analysis or if you want to analyse stories or accounts, then Narrative Analysis which allows you to look at the interface between the social and the personal (whereas IPA is only about individual differences).

    happy to continue the dialogue…….

  • Lee

    Thanks, Lynne. I’m having big headaches about my RQ and what outcomes result from my research (which is the point of a doctorate, yes?).

    I’m meeting with my two supervisors early next week to thrash/brainstorm this out and your input is very much appreciated. Again, thank you.

  • Lee

    And to add an extra level of amusement, I’m still struggling with the ‘so what?’ factor to my research question, “What effect has social media had on business communicators with 15+ years experience?”

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