Bannister (1981)

Robin Hill (BSRAH@TWP.AC.NZ)
Tue, 26 Aug 1997 13:34:17 +1300

I wanted to use the PCP list to thank Devi for alerting me to the
Reason and Rowan book, and in particular Donald Bannister's chapter
in that book. I thought I'd put this thank-you on the list, because
others may be interested in also reading Bannister's 9 page chapter.

Here at The Waikato Polytechnic, I work not as a psychologist and only
partially as an Organisational Behaviour lecturer. Five years ago
I was employed by the Business Studies Dept to lead the staff of the
newly accredited B.Bus. degree into research activity. In that five
years I have become very frustrated with the level of inactivity
among the staff, and found myself confused about my stance regarding

The main core of our staff (Accounting lecturers) have all
been educated at the same institution - an institution with a heavy
influence from critical theory. A major source of research inactivity,
and major source of perplexity for me, has been the methodological
suspiciousness of these people. To engage in research, seems to
mean _accepting_ a methodology, and hence experiencing some cognitive
dissonance. Another source of frustration for me have been staff who
have taken an "anything goes" stance on research. I have been
uncomfortable with, and questioning my own values, regarding research
ventures of this loose construing type, which in Bannister's terms are
"vaguely significant." Wishy-washy essays on important issues but which
don't tell you anything particularly useful, and which seem not be

In my discomfort with this, some of my collegues have accused me of
being a typical psychologist, and therefore a logical positivist, using flawed
reasoning in the study of social events. In other words, first of
all, stereotyped, and second, its as if my colleagues believed that if
you weren't in one camp then you must be firmly in the other camp.
Of course this has made me bristle a bit, because I have simultaneously
had great discomfort with research of the tight construing type that
Bannister described as "specifically irrelevant." Very precise
research on such a minutely defined issue that, again the outcome is
hardly useful.

When I read this short chapter by Donald Bannister I found it very
up-lifting and self confirming. It confirmed why I subscribe to PCP,
it confirmed "where I come from" in research and it described in
words many of my values about research, which to date have been but
inarticulated feelings. Virtually every sentence in the chapter had
some meaning for me and described the way I think about research - it
described me.

So, again, thank-you Devi for alerting me to this paper. And... if
anyone else out there is struggling with issues regarding the
philosophy of social science and research and your own place, or
stance in the various paradigm debates going around at present - then
you too might gain some confirmation from reading this chapter. I
include the reference below.

Bannister D. (1981) Personal Construct Theory and research method. In
P.Reason & J. Rowan (Eds) Human Inquiry. Chichester: John Wiley.
Chapter 16, pp. 191-199. (The book can still be purchased since
reprints have been made through to 1994).

Dr. Robin Hill

Principal Lecturer & Research Leader
Department of Business Studies
The Waikato Polytechnic
Private Bag 3036
Hamilton 2020
New Zealand

Fax. NZ (07) 834-8802