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Paper info: Putting Critical Realism to Work in Business Relationship Research


Putting Critical Realism to Work in Business Relationship Research


Annmarie Ryan,
Jaana Tähtinen
Turku School of Economics and Business Administration
Jaana Tähtinen ,
Markus Vanharanta
Lancaster University
United Kingdom
Markus Vanharanta and Tuija Mainela

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 25th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2009.


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 Within the IMP, Critical Realism is emerging as a philosophical position of choice for the study of business relationships as evidenced by the growing number of papers which purport to take this position. Notwithstanding the growing use of Critical Realism, we acknowledge that is not easy ontology to apply. This paper fills in the gap by showing how to design and execute a study on business relationships using critical realism as ontology. This will involve a discussion on how this perspective affects our view of business relationships, the research design, and the theorisation process, moving from thick description common in small N studies towards analytical generalisation (Yin 1994). Throughout the paper we will draw on examples from three studies. As a result this paper offers a 7 stage framework to support researchers taking this position, which addresses specific thought processes and design issues in critical realist informed research. The paper will conclude by outlining implications for research practice.