Investigating informality in construction: philosophy, paradigm and practice

Thayaparan Gajendran
Graham Brewer
Goran Runeson
Andrew Dainty


The complex interrelationships commonly enacted as a consequence of project team activity take a number of different forms, including those formally dictated by contract conditions. However it is becoming increasingly apparent that project performance is affected by informal relationships, though their investigation is notoriously difficult. This paper proposes that these difficulties arise partly from the nature of the informalities themselves, but also as a consequence of the philosophical position taken by researchers and their consequent methodological/paradigmatic posture, and its impact upon those being studied. It consequently proposes a subjectivist investigative framework that accommodates multiple philosophical points of departure, matching them to a range of alternative methodologies, and indicates the desirability of blending to reflect the peculiarities of each context under investigation. The framework also accommodates the practicalities of putting complex methodologies into action. The paper concludes that this framework presents opportunities to conduct rigorous in-situ investigations of informality at work, leading to authentic and deep insights that would otherwise remain unseen

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