Qualitative Research Methods

This PhD seminar is for PhD students/participants (regular and industrial) primarily in business, organization, marketing, and management studies. However, students from other social science disciplines may also find this course relevant for developing a qualitative research approach. The two instructors bring with them extensive experiences with social science theories and how to extract relevant data using a range of qualitative methods, such as case-studies and semi-structured in-depth interviews. Both instructors have published in leading international academic journals.

Qualitative research is a research strategy that emphasizes large bodies of unstructured data (textual, graphical, audio, and video data) that cannot be meaningfully analyzed by formal, statistical approaches. Despite differences, qualitative research approaches share at least the following assumptions, that is, by systematically generating and analyzing data and applying existing socio-cultural theorical frameworks new insights can be uncovered to how individuals make sense of self and others, and consequently act within social systems. Since both research methods and social science theories are informed by underlying philosophical perspectives, this course will first introduce these perspectives. 

Students will then be introduced to various theoretical orientations within the interpretive paradigm and how each is built upon certain epistemological assumptions including the construction of meaning and the representation of reality/ies.  We will cover various qualitative approaches (e.g., grounded theory, action research, case studies, ZMET) and discuss their pros and cons given your particular research question. Whereas the case studies and participant observations represent a holistic approach, the ZMET semi-structured in-depth interview surfaces subconscious mindsets (mental models) that inform and motivate consumer sensemaking of a given topic of interest within a given group or subculture of people under study. 

Qualitative methods provide the opportunity to gain new insights into exploring drivers of behavior which might lead to new theoretical insights. As part of the course students will be introduced to how data can be analyzed through grounded theory (coding), which is a general method that identifies codes and constructs through a comparative analysis of qualitative data. The idea of the grounded theory is to code the text and extract themes that point to the influence of deep- seated socio-cultural models, propositions, and assumptions. The approach is primarily inductive, i.e., an exploration of topics pertaining to broader socio-cultural theoretical issues/dilemmas. The insights from qualitative research can, in addition to theory building, also be used to establish new hypotheses that can be tested quantitatively (surveys, experimentally etc.). As such, quantitatively oriented students might also benefit from this course. 

The qualitative data analysis is supported by different software packages (e.g., NVivo, Nudist, Atlas.ti, MAXQDA). Only Atlas.ti will be covered at a more general level. It is possible to download and install a training version of the software program Atlas.ti 9.0 and Atlast.ti Cloud at a discounted rate on your laptop computer. Link: https://atlasti.com/students/ Also, you can consult online tutorials for a more detailed coverage- see below links. The course represents a doctorate workshop. Throughout the course, initiatives, creativity, and critical thinking on part of the students will be appreciated and encouraged.

Course content
This year’s (2023) course at CBS will be in person. You will be notified in case we have to convert to either a hybrid or online course due to imposed Covid-19 restrictions. The course requires preparation by students before each session as well as interaction with one or two other students in preparation for the course (a small presentation of an article–also, see below). Students are encouraged to debate their particular views, methodological problems, and research issues. 

In order to get a certificate with full ECTS from the Copenhagen Business School you have to pass the following three activities:

1.    A short research proposal. Here, you formulate a research problem of your choice (preferably from your own research field, and one you envision using for your PhD), its contribution (relevance), theoretical framework, and the research design (method to collect and analyze data). It should be three to five pages (single line-space). You should send us your research proposal latest a week prior to the course start. You will present and discuss this proposal in the course with an instructor and a smaller group of students. Within two weeks after the course ends, you submit an updated version of your proposal based on feedback from the discussion as well as general insights and knowledge acquired during the course to the course coordinator. This will then be submitted for review to one of your fellow students (see bullet point 3).

2.    There will be a class-based activity that includes hands-on interviews practices. In preparation for this activity and prior to the course, each students identifies a topic of interest he/she would like to explore further during the course. This topic is then send to another participant before course start, who prepares to be interviewed (following the ZMET instructions which will be provided). The ZMET semi-structured interview techniques are developed by Zaltman (professor emeritus at Harvard Business School) and are probably one of the most sophisticated and useful one, and are used both in the industry and by leading qualitative researchers. The ZMET processes are described in details in a paper by Zaltman and Coulter 1996 (which is part of the required readings). 

3.    Each participant will do a review of another PhD student’s research proposal. In order to learn from each other, each participant will also write a constructive review (approx. 1-2 pages long) of a fellow PhD participant’s updated research proposal which is turned in two weeks after it is received (i.e., hand-in is approx. four weeks after the course ends). We will provide additional information about how to write a constructive review. As part of your review you are encouraged to take the self-guided free review course provided by leading editors in our field at:  https://researcheracademy.elsevier.com/navigating-peer-review/certified-peer-reviewer-course .

Teaching style
We will cover core material in lectures and entice students to discuss core issues. Student will present their own research as well as provide feedback to other students’ research proposals.  We look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen. You are required to be present for all seminar sessions and participate actively throughout, including discussing existing assumptions/theories/ methods and presenting your own thoughts and work in class.

Lecture plan

TUESDAY 19 September 2023
9.00 – 12.00  Philosophical Foundations of Social Research
•  Introductory lecture and discussion

•    Blagoev, B.; Costas, J. (2022) Interpretative Inquiry, in: C. Neesham, M. Reihlen, D. Schoeneborn (eds.), Handbook of Philosophy of Management.
•    Reihlen, M.; Schoeneborn, D. (2022) The Epistemology of Management: An Introduction, in: C. Neesham, M. Reihlen, D. Schoeneborn (eds.), Handbook of Philosophy of Management.
•    Reihlen, M.; Habersang, S.; Nikolova, N. (2022). Realist Inquiry, in: C. Neesham, M. Reihlen, D. Schoeneborn (eds.), Handbook of Philosophy of Management
•    Reihlen, M.; Klaas-Wissing, Th; Ringberg, T. (2007): Metatheories in Management Studies: Reflections upon Individualism, Holism, and Systemism, in M@n@gement, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 49-69.
•    Link to 45 min summary, copy/paste in to your browser

12-13 LUNCH    

13.00 –14.30  Qualitative Research: Design and Approaches
•  Lecture and discussion
Team activity: systematic comparison/discussion of background theories.


•    Locke, K. and Golden-Biddle, K. (2004): An introduction to qualitative research: its potential for industrial and organizational psychology, in: Handbook of research methods in industrial and organizational psychology, edited by S. G. Rogelberg, S. G., Blackwell: Oxford: 99-118.
•    Maxwell, Joseph A. (2008) Designing a Qualitative Study, in: The SAGE handbook of applied social research methods, 2, edited by Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, Sage: Los Angeles, 214-253.

14.30 – 17.00  Design and Method of Case Study Research
•  Lecture and discussion    


•    Eisenhardt, K. und Graebner, M. E. (2007): Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges, in: Academy of Management Journal, 50, 1: 25-32
•    Reihlen, M., Schlapfner, J. F., Seeger, M., & Trittin‐Ulbrich, H. (2022). Strategic Venturing as Legitimacy Creation: The Case of Sustainability. Journal of Management Studies, 59(2), 417-459

WEDNESDAY 20 September 2023

9.00 – 12.00  Cognition, mental models/mindsets, and interpretive communities. 

•    Case study MET    


•    Ringberg & Reihlen (2008). “Toward a Socio-Cognitive Approach to Knowledge Transfer” in Journal of Management Studies Vol. 45 No 5, pp. 912-935
•    Ringberg, Odekerken-Schröder & Christensen (2007) “A cultural models approach to segmenting consumer recovery expectations,” in Journal of Marketing, Vol.71 (July), pp. 194-214. 
•    Luna, Ringberg & Peracchio (2008), “One Individual, Two Identities: Frame Switching Among Biculturals,” in Journal of Consumer Research Vol. 35, No 2, pp. 279-293. 
•    Ringberg & Gupta (2003), “The Importance of Understanding the Symbolic World of Customers in Asymmetric Business-to-Business Relationships,” in Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Special Issue on Qualitative Approaches in B-2-B. Vol. 18 No 6/7.  Pp. 607-626. 
•    Ryden, Ringberg & Wilke, R. (2015), “The influence of Mental Models of Business- Consumer Interaction on Social Media Use” in Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 31, August, pp 1-16. 
•    Arnould and Price (1993) “River magic” Journal of Consumer Research Vol 20 (June) pp. 24-45)

12.00-13.00    Lunch

13.00 – 17.00  Interviewing. Zaltman Metaphorical Elicitation Techniques (ZMET), including laddering and mind mapping (Method)

Analyzing. Identification of codes, constructs, themes, mental models and collective mindmaps.
    •    Christensen & Olson (2002) “Mapping Consumers’ Mental Models with ZMET”, Psychology & Marketing, Vol 19(6), pp 477-502.


•    Zaltman & Coulter (1995). “Seeing the voice of the customer: Metaphor-based advertising research,” Journal of Advertising Research, 35(4): 35-51. 
•    Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 19(6), 418-427.
•    Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G., & Hamilton, A. L. (2013). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational research methods, 16(1), 15-31.
•    Suddaby, R. (2006) What grounded theory is not. In: Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 633-642.


9.00 – 12.00. Exercises: 

•    Hands-on qualitative (ZMET) semi-structured interviews by participants.

•    Presentations of insights
12.00-13.00    Lunch    

13.00-17.00  Presentations and discussions of students’ research proposals (incl feedback)    Participants ae divided into two groups. 

Within each sub-group, each student presents 10-15 min (core ideas) followed by open discussion (everyone participate) 10-15 min.

Friday 22 SEPTEMBER 2023

9.00-11.30  Structuring a qualitative research paper, positioning, contribution, theoretical framing and use of relevant methods including examples of use of various research approaches. 


•    Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Sage publications, chap. 7 offers good examples of how to structure a research proposal
•    Alvesson, M., & Sandberg, J. (2011). Generating research questions through problematization. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 247-271. 
•    McInnis, D. J (2011) A Framework for Conceptual Contributions in Marketing. Journal of Marketing, Vol 75 (July), 136-154
•    Bansal and Corley, K. (2011). From the editors: The coming of age for qualitative research, Academy of Management Journal Vol. 54, No. 2, p. 233-237
•    Ragins, B. R. (2012). Reflections on the craft of clear writing. Academy of Management Review, 37(4), 493-501. 

11.30-12.00    Lunch    

12.00-14.00  How to do a review & Evaluation of course


•    Caligiuri, P & D.C. Thomas (2013) From the Editors: How to write a high-quality review. Journal of International Studies, 44, 547-553

Learning objectives

This course provides you with insights into:
•     Philosophical foundations and principles of qualitative methods
•    How cognition and shared mental models orient subjects’ as well as your own representations (i.e., conceptual mindsets)
•    Identifying and formulate relevant research questions (relevant, interesting, theoretical framework)
•    How to design a qualitative research study including various data collection methods, especially ZMET, hereunder ethical considerations
•    Developing an interview guide and conduct semi-structured qualitative interviews 
•    Analyzing rich data (textual and mindmaps)
•    Critical reflections on your own as well as others’ research proposals, positioning/contribution, and research processes.

Within two weeks after the course ends, you submit an updated version of your proposal based on feedback and general knowledge acquired during the course to the course coordinators. This will then be submitted for review to one of your fellow participants.
Review of a research proposal. In order to learn from each other each participant writes a constructive review (approx. 2-3 pages long) of a fellow PhD participant’s updated research proposal and turns this in two weeks after it is received (approx. four weeks after the course ends). We will provide additional information about how to write a constructive review.


Please register your topic of your PhD-thesis or research interests as well as your PhD-supervisor (to CBS) – Name and Email.

Updated course information will be distributed to students via email. 

Approaches to Coding by Susanne Friese Start date: Tuesday Sept 19, 2023

Course Literature

• Bond III, E. U., de Jong, A., Eggert, A., Houston, M.B., Kleinaltenkamp, M., Kohli, A.K., Ritter, T, & Ulaga, W. (2020). The Future of B2B Customer Solutions in a Post-COVID-19 Economy: Managerial Issues and an Agenda for Academic Inquiry. Journal of Service Research, 23 (4) 401-408.
• De Jong, A., de Ruyter, K, Keeling, D.I., Polyakova, A., Ringberg. T (2021). Key Trends in Business-to-Business Services Marketing Strategies: Developing a Practice-based Research Agenda. Industrial Marketing Management 93 1-9.
• De Ruyter, K., D.I. Keeling, K. PLangger, M. Montecchi, M.L. Scott, and D. Dahl (2022), Reimagining marketing strategy: Driving the debate on grand challenges, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 50(1): 13-21.
• Deighton, John A., Carl F. Mela, and Christine Moorman (2021). Marketing thinking and doing. Journal of Marketing, 85(1):1-6.
• Grewal, D., Puccinelli, N., & Monroe, K. B. (2018). Meta-analysis: Integrating accumulated
knowledge. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 46(1), 9-30.
• Kadić-Maglajlić, S., Chaker, N. N., & Arslanagić-Kalajdzić, M. (2021). The same only different: Seven steps of selling in emerging markets. In F. Jaramillo & J. Mulki (Eds.), A Research Agenda for Sales (pp. 109–134). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781788975315.00013
• La Placa, Peter, Adam Lindgreen, Joëlle Vanhamme, and C. Anthony Di Benedetto (2018). How to revise, and revise really well, for premier academic journals. Industrial Marketing Management, 72: 174–180.
• La Placa, P., Lindgreen, A., and Vanhamme, J. (2018). How to write really good articles for premier academic journals. Industrial Marketing Management, 68:202—209.
• Lindgreen, Adam, C. Anthony Di Benedetto, Jens Geersbro, and Thomas Ritter (2018). Past, present, and future business-to-business marketing research. Industrial Marketing Management. 69: 1-4.
• Palmatier, Robert (2016). Improving publishing success at JAMS: Contribution and positioning. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(6): 655–659.
• Steel, Piers, Sjoerd Beugelsdijk, and Herman Aguinis (2021). The anatomy of an award-winning metaanalysis: Recommendations for authors, reviewers, and readers of meta-analytic reviews. Journal of International Business Studies, 52: 23-44.

Additional useful qualitative research literature
Philosophical Foundations of Social Research Pre-reading 
•    Alvesson, M., & Sköldberg, K. (2009). Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research. Sage: London, chap. 1-3. 
•    Bunge, M. (1996). Finding philosophy in social science, New Haven: Yale University Press. 
•    Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research. Meaning and perspective in the research process, Sage: London. 

Qualitative Research Methods 
•    Flick, Uwe; von Kardorff, Ernst; Steinke, Ines (Eds.) (2004). A companion to qualitative research, Sage: London.
•    Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (Vol. 41). Sage publications.
•    Miles, M.B.; Huberman, M.A. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook, 2nd. ed., Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Action Research
•    Coghlan, D. (2011). Action research: Exploring perspectives on a philosophy of practical knowing. Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 53-87.
•    Reason, P.; Bradbury, H. (2013). The Sage handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Sage: London.

Case study research
•    Dyer, W.G.; Wilkins, A.L. (1991), ‘Better Stories, Not Better Constructs, To Generate Better Theory: A Rejoinder to Eisenhardt’, Academy of Management Review, 16, 3, pp. 613-619.
•    Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989), Building theories from case study research, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 14, No. 4, S. 532–550.
•    Gibbert, M., Ruigrok, W., & Wicki, B. (2008). What passes as a rigorous case study?. Strategic management journal, 29(13), 1465-1474.Langley, A. (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 691-710. 

•    Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in practice: Routledge.
•    Smets, M.; Burke, G.; Jarzabkowski, P. (2014) Charting new territory for organizational ethnography: Insights from a team-based video ethnography, Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 3(1):10-26.

Grounded Theory
•    Bryant, A.; Charmaz, K. (Eds.) (2007) The SAGE Handbook of Grounded Theory, Sage: Thousand Oaks.
•    Glaser, B.; Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research, Aldine: Chicago.
•    Glaser, B. G. 1992. Basics of grounded theory analysis. Mill Valley, California: Sociology Press.
•    Locke, K. (2001): Grounded theory in management research, London: Sage
•    O’Reilly, K., Paper, D., & Marx, S. (2012). Demystifying grounded theory for business research. Organizational Research Methods, 15(2), 247-262.
•    Strauss, A.; Corbin, J. (1998): Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory, 2nd ed., Sage: Thousand Oaks.

Qualitative Meta-Analysis
•    Hoon, C. (2013), Meta-synthesis of qualitative case studies: an approach to theory building, Organizational Research Methods, 16(4): 522–556.
•    Finfgeld-Connett, D. (2018). Introduction to Theory-Generating Meta-Synthesis Research. In a Guide to Qualitative Meta-Synthesis. Routledge.
•    Rousseau,D. M.,Manning, J.,&Denyer,D. (2008). Evidence in management and organizational science: Assembling the field’s full weight to scientific knowledge through synthesis. Academy of Management Annals, 2, 475-515

Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET)
•    Zaltman, Gerald (2003). How customers think: Essential insights into the mind of the market. Harvard Business School Press: Cambridge. 

Select payment methods:

CBS students: Choose CBS PhD students and the course fee will be deducted from your PhD budget.

Students from other Danish universities: Choose Danish Electronic Invoice (EAN). Fill in your EAN number, attention and possible purchase (project) order number. Do you not pay by EAN number please choose Invoice to pay via electronic bank payment (+71). 

Students from foreign universities: Choose Payment Card. Are you not able to pay by credit card please choose Invoice International to pay via bank transfer. 

Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.