Tackling Complexity in Business & Society Research: The Methodological and Thematic Potential of Factorial Surveys

Business & Society (doi: 10.1177/0007650316645337)

46 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2016

See all articles by Josua Oll

Josua Oll

University of Hamburg

Rüdiger Hahn

University of Hohenheim

Daniel Reimsbach

Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf

Peter Kotzian

University of Duesseldorf

Date Written: April 25, 2016

Abstract

Factorial surveys (FSs) integrate elements of survey research and classical experiments. Using a large number of respondents in a controlled setting, FSs approximate complex and realistic judgment situations through so-called vignettes — that is, carefully designed descriptions of hypothetical people, social situations, or scenarios. Despite being rooted, and predominantly applied, in sociology, FSs are particularly promising for business and society (B&S) scholars. Given the multiplicity, inherent complexity, and sometimes fuzziness of B&S research objects, conventional research methods inevitably reach their limits. This article, therefore, systematically presents methodological and thematic opportunities for FS studies in B&S research. It is argued that FSs are well suited to dealing with the complex interplay of societal-, organizational-, and individual-level factors in B&S research and to studying the principles underlying human perceptions, attitudes, values, social norms, and (anticipated) behavior. The application of the FS method is illustrated based on a showcase example in the realm of socially responsible investments (SRIs). As the literature on the conceptualization of FSs is limited, methodological challenges are addressed to guide B&S researchers past the common methodological pitfalls.

Keywords: Factorial surveys, vignette study, experiment, research methods, multilevel research, socially responsible investments

Suggested Citation

Oll, Josua and Hahn, Rüdiger and Reimsbach, Daniel and Kotzian, Peter, Tackling Complexity in Business & Society Research: The Methodological and Thematic Potential of Factorial Surveys (April 25, 2016). Business & Society (doi: 10.1177/0007650316645337). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2769891

Josua Oll (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146
Germany

Rüdiger Hahn

University of Hohenheim ( email )

Germany

Daniel Reimsbach

Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf ( email )

Düsseldorf, DE
Germany

Peter Kotzian

University of Duesseldorf ( email )

Universitaetsstr. 1
Duesseldorf, 40225
Germany

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