Researching Practice and Practicing Research Reflexively. Conceptualizing the Relationship Between Research Partners and Researchers in Longitudinal Studies


  • Harald Tuckermann University of St. Gallen
  • Johannes Rüegg-Stürm University of St. Gallen



organizational change, methodology, social systems theory, reflexivity, longitudinal studies, process perspective


Reflexivity has gained considerable significance in organization studies over the last decade. The discussion provides significant insight into interpreting one's findings and into presenting them to the academic community. But, the relationship between research partners in practice and researchers remains less in focus. Nevertheless, it provides the foundation from which data and interpretations emerge. To provide an orientation, this paper aims to develop a methodological heuristic inspired by social systems theory to conceptualize the relational foundation of longitudinal research. This "reflexive system theory heuristic" is illustrated empirically by reconstructing the research process of a longitudinal single case study on a change process in a hospital. The heuristic helps to observe and explain the dynamic relationship in the field and to explicitly acknowledge the status of empirical findings when understanding research as a generative activity. The heuristic conceptualizes the researched and research practices as communication systems, thus consistently developing a reflexive approach for field research. By taking into account the practice as well as the academic context, the heuristic can be extended to the insights drawn from the discussion on reflexivity. For social systems research on organizations, the heuristic provides a starting point to foster a methodological discussion. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1003147


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Author Biographies

Harald Tuckermann, University of St. Gallen

Harald TUCKERMANN is a lecturer and co-head of a management program for healthcare professionals at the University of St. Gallen. He is in charge of the research program "HealthCare Excellence" (HCE) that explores management and organizational change in hospitals. His research focuses on organizational change from a social systems perspective and on strategizing in pluralistic organizations, including the handling of paradoxes. His academic experience includes a visiting research position at Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia, after finishing his Masters Degree in Economics and Business Administration at Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany. His practical experience ranges from strategy consultancy, process consultancy, to a bank apprenticeship.

Johannes Rüegg-Stürm, University of St. Gallen

Johannes RUEGG-STÜRM holds the chair for Organizational Studies at the Institute of Public Management and Tourism of the University of St. Gallen HSG. His habilitation in 1998 focused on corporate transformation and organizational change, including a stay as Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Corporate Strategy and Change (Professor Andrew PETTIGREW), Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK from 1995 to 1996. Since 1993, he is Lecturer for Business Administration at the Institute of Management (IfB) at the HSG and headed various research projects at the IfB; teaching activities in the context of IfB Management Seminars on Management of Change, Organization Design, Process-based Organization, Financial Controlling and Management Accounting, Management. His experience in industry from 1989 to 1992, ranges from the fields of Management Accounting, Reporting, Operational and Strategic Controlling, with Ciba-Geigy AG, Basel, Switzerland. His award winning Doctoral thesis, "Corporate Development and Ethics" was concluded in 1989, and succeeded his studies in Business Administration, with a major in finance and accounting from 1986 to 1989 at the University of St. Gallen. Current research interests: systemic-constructionist approaches to management, leadership and organization; management of strategic change and renewal; management of healthcare organizations; strategy-as-practice.




How to Cite

Tuckermann, H., & Rüegg-Stürm, J. (2010). Researching Practice and Practicing Research Reflexively. Conceptualizing the Relationship Between Research Partners and Researchers in Longitudinal Studies. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(3).