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Research Methods

Hierarchy of Organizational Motivations to Engage in Research


James Neill
Last updated:
10 June 2013

Why do some people and organizations conduct research and evaluation?

Conducting research (systematic investigation of phenomena) is not typically part of many start-up programs. However, engagement in research tends to evolve as programs grow and fields of endeavour develop and mature (Priest, 1999).

Based on 20 years of experience conducting research and evaluation into psychology and outdoor education, I suggest a seven-stage hierarchy, which has parallels with models for individual stages of motivation or consciousness, such as:

The motivations for an organization to initially engage in research might start with relative self-interest, but over time may evolve to focus on providing more significant social contributions. Thus, the following seven stages of organization motivations are suggested:

Organizational motivations to engage in research

Figure 1. Hierarchy of organizational research & evaluation motivations.

-1. Active disinterest or intentional non-engagement with research and evaluation due to fear or misunderstanding. May be actively cynical or skeptical about the potential value of engaging in research and evaluation.

0. Denial or non-awareness that research and evaluation could be a potentially valuable option. Heads in sand about potential value of research and evaluation.

1. The lowest level of motivation for actually conducting research and evaluation takes place when a person or organization is forced or coerced to engage in evaluation, such as being required to do so by a funding agency.

2. An organization may willingly seek out research and evaluation, but do so primarily for self-interested purposes (e.g., for marketing and funding applications.

3. An organization may seek to find out more about their program through research and evaluation because they genuinely want to learn about and improve the quality of the program.

4. An organization may conduct research and evaluation not only for program improvement but also to contribute to the development of a profession or industry.

5. An organization may conduct research and evaluation primarily for the sake of humanity and the cosmos. Here, the motivation is to contribute to development of knowledge for human society and the planet as well as sharing this knowledge as widely as possible.

Where do you think the organizations you work with might place within this hierarchy of research motivations? What could be done to help this organization progress to the next stage?

Hierarchical, stage development models are often criticized for being overly structured. Thus, it is important to realize that progression through the stages can start from any point and need not progress linearly (e.g., a change in leadership can cause a big leap up or down).


Priest, S. (1999). National life cycles in outdoor adventure programming. The Outdoor Network, 10 (1), 16-17, 34-35.