The Organizational Meaning of Research

  • Marco Adria University of Alberta
  • Patricia Boechler University of Alberta


Practitioners and theorists have given attention recently to the role and status of research activities in Canadian university continuing education units. For individuals in units that are increasing the proportion of their organizational activities devoted to research, there will be an ongoing process of cognitive change and development as a new organizational culture emerges. Sensemaking is used in this article as a heuristic for exploring the process of incorporating and developing research activities in university continuing education units. Sensemaking is the cognitive process of justifying or legitimating a decision or outcome after the decision or outcome is already known. It is associated with organizational models that reject an exclusively rational decision-making paradigm of organizational action. Sensemaking recognizes the centrality of the following elements in the interpretation of research activities and their relationship to organizational life: time, identity construction, and the ongoing creation of context. The authors provide an extended reflection on the process of meaning-making that may be experienced by individuals as conventional research becomes a more important part of organizational life. Such a reflection may support and inform the change process as it occurs in university continuing education units.