Mind the gap: But does the gap matter in social science research?

Stephen Harwood, Sally Eaves

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper explores the issue of the ‘gap’ between research and practice in the social sciences with specific focus upon business and management domains. This is important and timely given the current interest by funding bodies in the impactful nature of research. However, it is also problematic since such research is frequently viewed as irrelevant by the practitioners it is intended to impact. On the one hand, there is a need to advance knowledge which is abstract and conceptual, though, not uncommonly, whilst empirically grounded, this is construed as being that which is interesting by the scholarly community, where the emphasis is upon developing the field. This is compounded by the need to consistently publish in ‘quality’ journals. On the other hand, are the requirements of practitioners which are driven by a solution provision and immediate relevance orientation, with scant regard for rigour. This emphasis upon results is to the detriment of theory and the needs of researchers for quality empirical data. This invites the question of how to bridge this gap in terms of what is construed by both academics and practitioner as relevant.

In response, attention is dawn to such approaches that attempt to bridge this gap, such as Pragmatism, Action Research, Constructive Research and Interventionist Research. Each claims to have their own orientation, with associated advantages - disadvantages. However, these, questionably fail to resolve complex situations characterised by multiple views as to what the problem is. This invites attention to Problem Structuring Methodologies (PSMs), in particular, the Cybernetic Methodology, which offer an approach to deal with such multi-perspective complex situations, and with the aim to effect change in the situation. This paper evaluates these different approaches and offers a reflective and collective auto-ethnographic view to surface the pragmatic challenges of this pressing ‘value gap’ and with the intent to stimulate dialogue as to what this means for advancing business and management research and what ‘impact’ should actually mean.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECRM 2018
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 17th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies
EditorsPaola Demartini, Michela Marchiori
PublisherUniversità Roma Tre
ISBN (Print)9781911218920
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2018
EventEuropean Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies - The University of Roma, Rome, Italy
Duration: 12 Jul 201813 Jul 2018
Conference number: 17

Publication series

NameECRM Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)2049-0968


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies
Abbreviated titleECRM


  • research gap
  • research
  • reflection
  • research methods


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