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Going with the flow: shadowing in organisations.

McDonald, Seonaidh


Seonaidh McDonald


Catherine Cassell

Ann L. Cunliffe

Gina Grandy


In 1997 I undertook my first shadowing in an organisation. I had already been researching the organisation with a team of colleagues for more than a year. Despite the fact that I had already spent many long weeks in the organisation, travelling to all their sites in the UK, interviewing over 100 individuals, observing hours and hours of meetings and taking part in project feedback sessions to middle and senior management, nothing prepared me for the shadowing data. It is well documented that shadowing is a physically and mentally exhausting process and at first I thought it was this, and the richness of the torrent of data that was unleashed that was what made the experience so different. However as the weeks passed I began to realise that I was 'seeing' the organisation in a new way. That the data I was collecting were somehow different than the data I had collected before. This shed new light for me on the limitations of other methods and started a process of trying to articulate these subtle and slippery differences to myself and to others.


MCDONALD, S. 2018. Going with the flow: shadowing in organisations. In Cassel, C., Cunliffe, A.L. and Grandy, G. (eds.) The SAGE handbook of qualitative business and management research methods. London: SAGE [online], volume 2: methods and challenges, chapter 13, pages 205-218. Available from:

Online Publication Date Dec 14, 2017
Publication Date May 4, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 15, 2019
Publisher SAGE Publications
Pages 205-218
Series Title Qualitative techniques for business and management research
Book Title The SAGE handbook of qualitative business and management research methods. Volume 2: methods and challenges
Chapter Number Chapter 13
ISBN 9781526429278
Keywords Shadowing; Organisations
Public URL


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