Toward Polycontextually Sensitive Research Methods

Debra L. Shapiro (First Author), Zhixing Xiao (Participant Author), Mary Ann Von Glinow (Participant Author)

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In this paper we introduce the concept of ‘polycontextuality,’ which refers to multiple and qualitatively different contexts embedded within one another. We distinguish polycontextuality from the singularly contextual types of description typically provided by social scientists, and use the case of China to elucidate polycontextual phenomena. Polycontextuality can include verbal‐ and non‐verbal nuances whose understanding is rooted in local, cognitive, emotional and even spiritual references – most of which cannot be easily observed or historically studied. For this reason we recommend the polycontexual sensitive research method to supplement the scientific deductive research typically designed to study observable phenomena based on a singular context (e.g. verbal) that are controllable by the researcher's stimuli and/or measures. Actions for increasing scholars' polycontextual sensitivity are suggested, and guidelines for the scholar interested in doing high quality indigenous research are offered, using the case of China for illustrative purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-152
JournalManagement and Organization Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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