Temporal practices: time and ethnographic research in changing organizations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the conceptualisation and use of time in longitudinal fieldwork studies on workplace change.
Design/methodology/approach – The author reflects on 30 years of researching processes of change in organizations.
Findings – Time is shown to raise a research conundrum by an empirical pull towards more substantive language in doing field research and the conceptual attraction to fluidity and non-linearity in explaining the way that individuals and groups experience change. Chronological time and event time are useful in marking out key turning points and planning the research but they are unable to capture the qualitative, asynchronous and multi-faceted conception of time that link with experience in making sense of change. Dealing with time in ethnographic research is seen to raise a number of dilemmas that come to the fore when the philosophical assumptions of process studies come face-to-face with the practical realities of engaging in extended case study research.
Originality/value – The paper highlights tensions that are often downplayed and the need to hold on to contradictory conceptions of time in the pragmatics of conducting field research and in the analysis and presentation of findings. It is shown how stories present in the data, in the writing up of material for different audiences, in chronologies and events, and as a device for understanding the way individuals and groups adjust their views over time as they make sense and give sense to individual and collective experience – are useful devices for dealing with the conundrum of time in ethnographic research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-151
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


  • time
  • ethnography
  • longitudinal
  • processual
  • stories
  • research design
  • change


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