Methodolgy by metaphor: Ways of seeing in painting and research

M.J. Hatch, D. Yanow

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Scholars paint theoretical canvases, using words, without always making transparent the logic of inquiry embedded within their writing. This is especially so when writing for their own epistemic communities, whose members share a set of usually unspoken methodological presuppositions concerning the 'reality status' of what they study and its 'know-ability'. When research topics engage scholars across epistemic communities, as in organizational studies, arguments may be difficult to parse precisely because these presuppositions remain implicit, unnoted and, perhaps, unnoticed. By enabling new ways of seeing familiar things, metaphors can facilitate such encounters by making the implicit less so. We turn to painting to enable metaphoric understanding of methodological differences in organizational and other social science scholarship, drawing on examples from the organizational identity literature. Much as artists look at the world around them and render things on canvas using a range of techniques, so researchers use methods reflecting ontological and epistemological presuppositions about their research worlds. Contrasting Rembrandt with Pollock presents, through metaphor, our case for seeing differences between realists and interpretivists, whether they paint or do research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-44
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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