Original Research

Two decades of qualitative research in Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management within South Africa: A critical review

Sumari O'Neil, Eileen Koekemoer
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1350 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1350 | © 2016 Sumari O'Neil, Eileen Koekemoer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2016 | Published: 29 July 2016

About the author(s)

Sumari O'Neil, Department of Human Resource Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Eileen Koekemoer, Department of Human Resource Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Qualitative research is marked by phenomenal growth and development over the years.

Research purpose: This article aims to offer insight into the emerging qualitative methodologies used in the fields of Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology and Human Resource Management.

Motivation for the study: The value of qualitative organisational research has been recognised since the 1970s. Regardless of its perceived value, national and international trends show a greater tendency for quantitative research.

Research design, approach and method: This article investigates qualitative articles (n = 242) published over two decades in the South African Journal of Industrial Psychology (SAJIP), South African Journal of Psychology (SAJP), and the South African Journal of Human Resource Management (SAJHRM). More specifically, a content analysis was conducted to highlight the trends of paradigms, designs and analysis methods employed in the studies.

Main findings: Although there seems to be a slight increase in qualitative publications over the years, qualitative studies show a lower volume than its counterparts. The SAJIP published the least qualitative articles when compared to the SAJP and SAJHRM. There is a pattern of preference for specific paradigms and methods in all the journals. Overall, all the journals carry a large number of articles that do not specifically state their paradigmatic alignment or the designs they used, while some articles omits the methodology used in the studies altogether.

Practical/managerial implications: The results indicate a clear need for increased exposure to qualitative methodology, both by publishing more qualitative studies in local journals and by providing formal training opportunities. A publication does not solely rely on authorship, but also on a review process. Therefore certain adjustments in this process may lead to more and better qualitative publications in future.

Contribution/value-add: This article provides a critical analysis of the current trends and developments in qualitative research conducted in Industrial and Organisational Psychology(IOP) research in South Africa. The study identifies dominant methodologies in use, and thereby identifies possible opportunities to expand the ‘methodological menu’ of IOP research.


Content analysis; human resource management; industrial and organisational psychology; psychology; qualitative research design; qualitative research methodology; research paradigm


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