IntroductionA great deal of information has been published on the subject of social capital since its conceptualisation in the 1990s, resulting in the topic becoming increasingly popular in scholarly research (Avgar, 2010; Chang, 2016; De Clercq & Belausteguigoitia, 2015; Jennings & Sanchez-Pages, 2017). In spite of the popularity of such a topic in the realm of scholarly research, or perhaps because of it, a review and critique should be undertaken in order to determine whether an article supports the claims made, meets its intended purpose, whether anything can be learned from an article, and offer critical insights into the material presented therein. Ariel Agvar’s (2010) article, “Negotiated capital: Conflict, its resolution, and workplace social capital” will be reviewed against each of these criteria in order to determine the accuracy and validity of this article.
Brief Description of Article
Agvar’s article covers a study on “the effects of conflict and conflict resolution on employee perceptions of unit social capital” (p. 236). Agvar used survey data collected from 791 hospital employees as a part of a larger case study in order to explore what he perceived the effects of conflict resolution on social capital were. Agvar (2010) indicated some, of the limitations and shortcomings associated with this kind of study and the use of “cross-sectional data and the generalisability of findings from one hospital to other settings“(p. 236) in this matter, and the implications presented by Agvar were overstated, as was the originality and value of the study.
The central purpose of the study was stated as “the purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of conflict and conflict resolution on employee perceptions of unit social capital. The paper aims to test the overarching proposition that social capital is affected by different types of conflict and by organisational methods used to manage them” (Agvar, 2010, p. 236). This purpose is mentioned in the abstract only, and is not clearly stated or expressed at any point in the rest of the study. The purpose of the study, though clearly stated in the abstract, is not in alignment with the purpose of the study presented within the context of the written literature. The purpose, as written, makes it appear as though the study will be concentrating on the exploration of this topic within a business environment; (Where does it state this or is this an assumption) while healthcare is a business, the healthcare environment and the traditional business environment are widely different, and when exploring topics that cross between the two realms, modification is needed before a business concept can be applied within the healthcare setting (Ward, Marsolo, & Froehle, 2014). (Article pre-dated this)
The significance of the study is purported to fall within the realm of originality, with a claim made by the author that the paper serves as “one of the first empirical examinations of the relationship between conflict, conflict resolution and social capital” (Avgar, 2010, p. 236). As with the purpose of the study, this is not mentioned in any other location outside of the abstract. This claim is easily proven false, however, as a brief review of published literature shows that the topic was addressed in multiple books published in 2002 (Adger, 2010; Narayan, 2002), in a report produced for the World Bank in 2000 (Woolcock & Narayan, 2000), and written about in various journals long before this author chose to publish on the topic, with the purpose as given (Foley & Wdwards, 1997; Wijarantna, 2000). Thus, the study cannot be significant for the reason given by the researcher, as the reason given by the researcher is one easily proven false with basic fact checking practices.
Increases in Knowledge
The bulk of the material presented comes in the form of a literature review, without introduction to the topic at hand (Avgar, 2010 ???). Furthermore, the bulk of the literature review presented is not associated with the application of social capital within the hospital setting or within a healthcare setting, but is instead related to the application of social capital within a business setting, (Can the same principle not be applied ?)decreasing the overall relevance of the study, as the material is not relevant to the topic being explored, a topic that is not in alignment with the purpose statement, the title, or the research question being asked. As such, there is little to be learned from the article itself, particularly when taking into account the additional limitations that were not discussed by the researcher.
In addition to the fact that the purpose, research questions, and topic were not in alignment, it should be further noted that some of the larger study limitations were not even discussed by the researcher. Limitations that were presented included a lack of generalisability to other organisations and a lack of generalisability to other hospitals (Avgar, 2010). One major limitation not discussed anywhere in the article, included the fact that the data was not collected by the researcher for the purposes of the study, (where does it state this and what was it collected for?) but was instead collected as a part of a larger case study and was appropriated for use in the study, which means that the questions being asked on the study were not necessarily pertinent to the type of data necessary for the exploration of this topic. Still a further limitation to the study were found in the presentation of the study itself. The definition of social capital provided was not appropriate to the topic being studied, (Why expland ?) nor was there a clear means through which the researcher was able to determine how supervisor-assisted conflict management served a purpose in the study, or could be identified through quantitative survey results.
All in all, it is surprising that this article was published in the International Journal of Conflict Management, as this is a journal that requires the completion of a double blind peer review process before an article can be published. (It was check verified and published) A simple surface critique of the article serves to indicate large holes in the study itself, and fails to offer up even a basic indication of the manner in which those areas of issue are addressed or ways that the researcher worked to limit their effects on the study. This article cannot provide valuable information on the topic that it purports to study, given the issues with methodology, design, and study write up.
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