module specification

HR7155 - Research Methods in Human Resource Management (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Research Methods in Human Resource Management
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 200
155 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   Comparative methodological critique of two research studies (1 x qualitative + 1 x quantitative): c. 2,000 words
Coursework 60%   Individual dissertation research proposal: c. 3,000 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester City Monday Evening
Spring semester City Monday Evening

Module summary

The MA HRM Dissertation and the Postgraduate Diploma Management Research Report (MRR) are vital components of courses within the postgraduate framework.  By introducing students to philosophical and practical factors associated with understanding and undertaking HRM research at postgraduate level, complemented by formally assessed activity, the module provides a firm framework for critical analysis and evaluation of HRM research plus the subsequent dissertation design and implementation.

Module aims

The Research Methods in HRM module is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to research philosophy, methodology and design and their particular application in researching employment and people management issues in domestic and international contexts. Students are introduced to the choices and judgements that have to be made in crafting, executing and evaluating both pure and applied research. The module is intended to prepare students to critically read and evaluate research within their chosen field of study as well as undertaking independent research that is required for the dissertation or Management Research Report.

The module complements the other CIPD accredited modules by seeking to develop the practice of critical and analytical reflection on personal skill, knowledge, assumptions and values as students reflect and learn from their work, professional experience and formal and informal learning opportunities. Students build on the knowledge and skills developed throughout their course of postgraduate study and demonstrate professional competence by being able to meet the requirement to formulate a coherent research proposal appropriate to their specific course and then going on to complete the MA dissertation applicable to their award.

To contribute to the academic and professional development of the student this module, along with the other core modules of the course, has been designed to incorporate digital and information literacy competences and dispositions, as outlined in the Open University’s Digital and Information Literacy Framework  (DILF).
Particularly, this module develops level 7 (postgraduate) competencies in the areas of:

  • Understanding and engaging in digital practices
  • Finding Information
  • Critically evaluating information, online interactions and online tools
  • Managing and communicating information


The following summarises the main elements of the syllabus:

  • Philosophical underpinnings of social and management research: ontological, axiological and epistemological assumptions; partial and multiple truths; positivism versus naturalism; hypothetico-deductive paradigms versus interpretative-inductive paradigms (e.g., the ‘grounded method’); action and case study research approaches; comparative investigation; feminist methodologies.
  • Personal, professional, stakeholder and ethical issues involved in undertaking research in the HRM and employment context.
  • Secondary Research: literature searching: framing a literature search; published sources, secondary data and historical research; advanced referencing, database research and bibliographical citations.
  • Primary Research: quantitative approaches to organization, employment and human resources research (e.g., questionnaires, structured interviews and survey methods); qualitative approaches to organization, employment and human resources (e.g., ethnographies; in-depth case studies; qualitative individual and focus group interviewing); mixed methods and understanding the contribution and limitations of all approaches/methods (including complementary uses).
  • Research Design: formulating research proposals in studies related to the organization, employment studies and human resources field; organizational techniques in preparing research programmes; constructing methodological techniques for assembling data (e.g., questionnaire design; case study design); process of preparing research-based dissertations.
  • Research Analysis: sampling and survey analysis; selecting, interpreting and presenting statistical data; concept of probability; graphical representation of data; inferential statistics e.g. chi-square, t-test and correlation and regression; reflexive versus objective analysis; crystallisation versus triangulation; thematic and textual analysis; content and discourse analysis; IT software in research including SPSS and Nvivo (all drawing on examples of organization, employment and human resources research).
  • Writing and Presentation of Research Results and Analysis: writing research briefs, writing proposals, structuring research reports, giving research presentations, academic referencing.

Learning and teaching

The Research Methods in HRM module has both a strong academic approach and practical application. Lectures are intended to provide an introduction to the major areas of social science, business and HRM and employment research and the methods employed in the research. Critical evaluation of a wide range of research methods is given in the lectures, seminar discussion, and suggested readings. In addition, students participate in group work activity both prior to and in seminars, an SPSS workshop, and specialist library visits (e.g. TUC Library Collection) to introduce them to study resources and information technology that may support data organization and manipulation. These elements combine to underpin further reading and discussion so encouraging students to develop their knowledge and conduct their own analysis and synthesis of research material, and to write a research proposal in their specialist field. Active student involvement in the learning process is an integral part of the delivery of this module.  Attendance at all sessions is required as the unit is cumulative and progressive.  Outside of class contact, students learn through assignment work, reading and private study.

Learning outcomes

i) Identify, distinguish and evaluate different research paradigms, philosophies and epistemologies.
ii) Understand the role and significance of doing research within social science, business and HRM contexts, including the different forms and functions of research including: e.g. academic, policy, market, consultancy, evaluative.
iii) Reflect on the personal, professional and ethical issues issues involved in undertaking research in the HRM and employment context.
iv) Critically analyse, discuss and evaluate existing academic and practitioner research, demonstrating an awareness of research good practice, data collection, data analysis and the relative merits of different research methods in contributing to knowledge and informed decision-making within a range of contexts.
v) Conduct an information search of appropriate literature and data sources and reference the work of others following appropriate academic conventions.  
vi) Utilise IT software for data collection, analysis and presentation of data.    
vii)  Contribute effectively to the planning, design and implementation of research and the presentation of results/outcomes in the organization, employment studies and HRM/HRD field, including being able to negotiate, make sound and justifiable decisions and solve problems more effectively.
viii) Utilize the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake successful dissertation research within the field of HRM/HRD, located comparatively and internationally.

Additionally, in line with the DILF (level 7) students will be able to:

  • Articulate the characteristics of digital scholarship in the relevant subject and/or professional area.
  • Articulate the characteristic ways research information is generated and disseminated.
  • Engage in critical appraisal, including judgements on reliability and validity, of own work and the work of others.
  • Define clearly the scope of a research question and apply relevant criteria to filter large quantities of information related to this question.
  • Apply a suitable method for managing a large volume of information.

Assessment strategy

The complementary assessment components are intended, first, to support the learning and teaching activity throughout the module, enabling students to demonstrate in-depth reading and critical reflection on the major approaches to research appropriate to business, HRM and employment research, informed by knowledge from the social sciences and applied within the HRM field. Secondly, in coursework component two, to enable students to capitalise on what they have learned through the module and received assessment feedback on in coursework one, by identifying and developing their own dissertation proposal.


Key Texts:
Anderson, V. (2013) Research Methods in Human Resource Management, 3rd edition. London: CIPD.
Bell, J. (2014) Doing Your Research Project, 6th edition. Open University Press.
Brett Davies, M. (2007) Doing a Successful Research Project Using Qualitative or Quantitative Methods. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Bryman, A. and Bell, E. (2011) Business Research Methods. 3rd edition Oxford: OUP.
Buckingham, A. and Saunders. P. (2004) The Survey Methods Workbook. Cambridge: Polity Press. AND useful website with additional support materials
Cameron, S. and Price, D (2009) Business Research Methods: A Practical Approach, London: CIPD.
Costley, C., Elliott, G. and Gibbs, P.  (2010)  Doing Work-Based Research: Approaches to Enquiry for Insider-Researchers, London: Sage.
Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2015) Research Methods for Business Students, 7th edition. London: Pearson Education .
Student additional study resources to be used alongside this text are available at:
Salkind, N. (2014) Statistics for People Who (Think They) Hate Statistics.  5th edition. London: Sage.
Symon. G. and Cassell, C. (2012) Qualitative Organizational Research, London: Sage.

Important Texts:
Brace, N. Kemp, R. and Smelgar, R. (2012) SPSS for Psychologists, Basingstoke: Palgrave ALSO website with psychology related examples
Blumburg, B. (2014) Business Research Methods.  4th edition. London: McGraw-Hill
Coghlan, D. and Brannick, T. (2014) Doing Action Research in Your Own Organization. , 4th edition. L0ndon: Sage.
Cresswell, J.W. (2014, 4th edition) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches, London: Sage.
Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. and Jackson, P. R. (2012) Management Research.  4th edition. London: Sage.
Field, A.(2013Discovering Statistics Using SPSS , 3rd edition) .  London: Sage. ALSO his website with psychology related examples
Hart, C. (2001) Doing a Literature Search: A Comprehensive Guide for the Social Sciences. London: Sage.
Horn, R. (2009) The Business Skills Handbook, London: CIPD.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy and Patricia Lina Leavy (2014) Feminist Research Practice: A Prime., 2nd. Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Jowel, R., Roberts,C., Fitzgerald, R. and Eva, G. (2007) Measuring Attitudes Cross-Nationally, London: Sage.
Kelemen, M. and Rumens, N. (2008) An Introduction to Critical Management Research. London: Sage.
Marschan-Piekkari, R. and Welch, R. (2005)  Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business, Cheltenham, Edward-Elgar.
McNiff, J. and Whitehead, J. (2011) All You Need to Know about Action Research, 2nd edition. London: Sage.
Pallant, J. (2013) The SPSS Survival Manual, 5th edition.  London: McGraw Hill.
Wickramasinghe, M.  (2010) Feminist Research Methodology: Making Meanings of Meaning-Making, London: Routledge
Yin, R. K. (2014) Case Study Research: Design and Methods, 5th  edition .London: Sage.

Methodology Journals include:; Ethnography; Organizational Research Methods; Qualitative Research. In addition to the recommended texts it is expected that students will consult the appropriate journals in their own specialist area. These provide examples of the ways different research designs have been applied in empirical research.

Practitioner Resources include: ACAS -; CIPD -; European Industrial Relations Observatory – ; ILO –; Trades Union Congress –