Introduction. Research design should take into account both (a) the specific nature of the object under scrutiny, and (b) approaches to its study in the past. This is to ensure that informed decisions are made regarding research design in future empirical studies. Here these factors are taken into account with reference to methodological choice for a doctoral study on tacit knowledge sharing, and the extent to tacit knowledge sharing may be facilitated by online tools. The larger study responds to calls for the two domains of knowledge management and human information behaviour to be considered together in terms of their research approaches and theory development.
Method. Relevant literature – both domain-specific (knowledge management) and general (research methods in social science) – was identified and analysed to identify the most appropriate approaches for an empirical study of tacit knowledge sharing.
Analysis. The analysis shows that there are a number of challenges associated with studying an intangible entity such as tacit knowledge. Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods have been adopted in prior work on this theme, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Results. The analysis has informed a decision to adopt a research approach that deploys mixed methods for an inductive case study to extend knowledge of the influence of online tools on tacit knowledge sharing.
Conclusion. This work intends to open the debate on methodological choice and routes to implementation for studies that are subject to practical constraints imposed by the context in which they are situated.
Keywords. knowledge management, research methods, tacit knowledge