Participant observation in logistics research: Experiences from an RFID implementation study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose – The purpose is to describe the advantages, challenges and uncertainties of collecting and analyzing data using participant observation in logistics research.
Design/methodology/approach – Experiences from a participant observation study of an interorganizational RFID implementation in an international environment are presented and reflected on. The RFID implementation included complex interactions between three leading companies.
Findings – The results appear to support an increased use of participant observation in qualitative logistics research, particularly when investigating interorganizational aspects. The analysis highlights values, general limitations and challenges of using participant observation in logistics. The paper illustrates that using participant observation results in significant and detailed findings, which would be difficult to achieve with other methods. Suggestions on how to take advantage of the method’s benefits and overcome methodological challenges are provided.
Research limitations/implications – Future research may address experiences from other studies regarding how to analyze and report data from a participant observation study. It may also clarify the role the method is given in case studies and extend the analysis of epistemological aspects conducted in this paper.
Practical implications – This paper may inspire logistics researchers to consider participant observation, either as sole method or as part of a multi-methodical case study, in order to make use of its benefits and thus broaden the dimensions of logistics research.
Originality/value – A broad literature review indicates that participant observation studies are rather uncommon in logistics research. This paper thus highlights the potential of using this method in logistics research, particularly when investigating the overlooked, but essential, interorganizational aspects of logistics and SCM.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Mechanical Engineering


  • Qualitative research, interorganizational, participant observation, logistics research, RFID implementation, packaging, packaging logistics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-163
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch