Professor Mark NK Saunders

Professor Mark NK Saunders

Department of Management
Professor of Business Research Methods

Contact details

Birmingham Business School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Mark NK Saunders is Professor of Business Research Methods at Birmingham Business School. His research interests include:

  • Research methods, in particular participants selection, methods for understanding organizational relationships;
  • Human resource aspects of the management of change, in particular trust within and between organizations and organizational learning;
  • Small and medium sized enterprise (SME) success. 

He holds visiting professorships at the Universities of Malta, Surrey and Worcester and is a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and a member of the Fellows' College. 

Mark’s research has been published widely in journals including Annals of Tourism Research, British Journal of Management, Field MethodsHuman RelationsJournal of Personnel Psychology, Journal of Small Business Management, Management Learning and Social Science and Medicine.

Mark has co-authored and edited a range of books including Research Methods for Business Students (currently in its seventh edition), How to keep your research project on track: Insights from when things go wrong, Doing Research in Business and Management (currently in its second edition), Conducting Case Studies for Business and Management, Organizational Trust: a Cultural PerspectiveHandbook of Research Methods on Trust (currently in its second edition) and Handbook of Research Methods on Human Resource Development

He is joint editor for Sage’s Understanding Research Methods for Business and Management Students book series and editor for Edward Elgar’s Handbooks of Research Methods series.  


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2007)
  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2006)
  • PhD in Geography, University of Lancaster (1986)
  • PGCE in Secondary Education, University of Cambridge (1982)
  • MSc in Urban Studies, University of Salford (1981)
  • BA (2.1) in Geography, University of Lancaster (1980)


Mark joined the Birmingham Business School in October 2015 as Professor of Business Research Methods. He was College of Social Sciences Director of Postgraduate Research Methods Training between 2015 and 2015 and has been Director of the Business School’s PhD Programme since early 2017.

Mark began his career in academia after a variety of research posts in UK local government. 

He lectured at the Gloucestershire Business School, University of Gloucestershire, in Research Methods and Human Resource Management between 1990 and 2001. During this period he was Head of the Human Resource Management Research Centre.

He subsequently worked at Oxford Brookes University Business School between 2001 and 2009 where, alongside his research, he taught Research Methods and Methodology to masters and doctoral students.  During this time he was Assistant Dean (Director of Research and Doctoral Programmes) and Professor of Business Research Methods. 

Between 2009 and 2015 Mark was Professor in Business Research Methods at the Surrey Business School.  He taught Research Methods and Methodology to masters and doctoral students and was Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research Programmes between 2011 and 2014. 

Throughout his academic career Mark has tried to ensure synergies between his research, teaching and consultancy work wherever possible.  This is also reflected in his publications.

Mark has a long-term interest in doctoral training and supervison, and has organised numerous doctoral summer schools, symposia and colloquia.  Recent symposia and colloquia include those for the British Academy of Management, the University Forum for Human Resources Development and the First International Network on Trust (FINT).  In 2017 he was awarded the British Academy of Management Medal for Leadership in recognition of his contribution to capacity building.


  • Foundations of Qualitative Research Methods (College of Social Sciences MA Research Methods/Doctoral Training Programme)
  • Research Methods in International Business (MSc International Business Singapore)
  • Contemporary Issues in Work and Employment (MSc Human Resource Management)

Postgraduate supervision

Mark has supervised 16 PhDs, 1 DBA and 1 MPhil to successful completion; and examined 29 PhDs, 2 DBAs and 1 MPhil.

He is currently supervising 4 doctoral candidates who are researching various aspects of trust and distrust.

He welcomes enquiries from students wish to research inter-personal trust and distrust within and between organizations.


Mark’s research falls principally into three inter-related areas: research methods, human resource aspects of the management of change, and small and medium sized enterprises. Within his research he adopts a pragmatist approach utilizing a range of data collection methods alongside both quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques.

His work on research methods focuses, in particular, methods to research sensitive topics such as trust and justice; participant (sample) selection issues; and the development of tools to learn about, understand and improve organizational relationships within a process consultation framework.  Mark is also researching the implications of researchers’ epistemologies on their research and their teaching.

Mark’s work on human resource aspects of the management of change focuses on organisational trust, organisational learning and liminality.  Marks research on trust is concerned with understanding trust within and between organisations, in particular issues associated with trust and distrust, trust and change; patient safety; and perceptions of organisational justice. His research on organisational learning focuses upon understanding and improving relationships, whilst his work on liminality concerns new forms of professional work. He is interested in such relationships within organisations, between organisations and between organisations and their customers.  

Mark’s work on small and medium sized enterprises has two strands.  The first considers trust of ethnic minority small businesses.  The second is concerned with SME success and includes aspects such as bank financing, use of social capital and, most recently winning new business.

Other activities

  • Fellow of the British Academy of Management and member of the Fellow’s College.  Awarded in 2014.
  • Associate Editor for International Journal of Management Reviews
  • European Editor for The Services Industries Journal
  • Member of the Editorial Board for Human Resource Development Quarterly, Personnel Review and Online Journal of Business Research Methods
  • Visiting Professor Surrey Business School, University of Surrey
  • Visiting Professor Worcester Business School, University of Worcester
  • External Examiner (MBA), University of Mauritius


Recent books: 

Townsend K and Saunders MNK (2018) How to keep your research project on track: Insights from when things go wrong Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Saunders M and Lewis P (2018) Doing Research in Business and Management (2nd ed) Harlow: Pearson

Lee, B and Saunders MNK (2017) Conducting Case Studies for Business and Management. London: Sage

Saunders MNK, Lewis P and Thornhill A (2016) Research Methods for Business Students (7th edn,) Harlow:  Pearson Education

Saunders MNK, Lewis P, Thornhill A, Booij M, Borggreve A, Booy A and Beltman S (2015 Methoden en technieken van onderzoeke (7 editie) (Research Methods for Business Students, Dutch language 7th edition) Amsterdam, Pearson Education Benelux BV

Lyon F, Möllering G and Saunders MNK (eds) (2015) (2nd edition) Handbook of Research Methods on Trust Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Saunders MNK and Tosey P (eds) (2015) Handbook of Research Methods on HRD Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2014) Research Methods for Business Students (6th edn, Greek language edition) Athens: Disigma & Pearson Professional

Recent book chapters:

Saunders MNK and Townsend K (2018) ‘Choosing participants’ In Cassell, C, Cunliffe, A, and Grandy, G (eds) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Business and Management Research Methods. London: Sage. 480-494

Rojon C, Saunders MNK and McDowall A (2016) ‘Using qualitative repertory grid interviews to gather shared perspectives in a sequential mixed methods research design’. In K Townsend and R Loudoun (Eds) Handbook of qualitative research methods on HRM: Innovative techniques. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar 163-178

Kutaulas S, Gilliani A and Saunders M (2016) ‘Using storytelling to teach sampling techniques’ In D Remenyi (ed) 2016 Innovation in the Teaching of Research Methodology Excellence Awards: An Anthology of Case Histories. Reading ACPI, 88-98.

Saunders MNK, Gray D, Tosey P and Sadler-Smith E (2015) ‘Concepts and theory building’ In  L Anderson, J Stewart, R Thorpe and J Gold (eds) The handbook of professional doctorates in Business and Management  London: Sage 35-56

Saunders MNK, Lyon F and Möllering G (2015) Researching trust in tourism: methodological issues and associated concerns In R Nunkoo and S Smith (eds) Trust, Tourism Development and Planning London: Routledge 168-179

Wang CL and Saunders, MNK (2012) ‘Nonresponse in cross-cultural telephone surveys: reflections on telephone survey interviews with Chinese managers’. In CL Wang, DJ Ketchen Jr, and DeBergh, (Eds). Research Methodology in Strategy and Management Volume 7, Bradford: Emerald Publishing 213-37

Recent journal articles:

Terzidou M, Scarles C and Saunders MNK. (2017) ‘Religiousness as tourist performances: A case study of Greek Orthodox pilgrimage’Annals of Tourism Research, 66,116-129

Saunders MNK, Gray DE and Bristow, A (2017) ‘Beyond the single organization: Inside insights from gaining access for large multiorganization survey HRD research’ Human Resource Development Quarterly. 28.3, 401-425

Doherty C, Stavropoulou C, Saunders MNK and Brown, T (2017) ‘The consent process: enabling or disabling patients’ active participation?’ Health 21.2, 205-222

Matheus T, Saunders MNK and Chakraborty S (2017)  ‘Multiple dimensions of power influencing knowledge integration in supply chains’ R&D Management 47.5, 673-688.

Saunders MNK and Townsend K (2016) ‘Reporting and justifying the number of interviews participants in organisation and workplace research’ British Journal of Management 27.4, 836-852

Stavropoulou C, Doherty C and Saunders MNK (2016) ‘Consent to treatment in the UK: time for practice to reflect the law’ Journal of Health Service Research and Policy 21.3 143-4

Saunders MNK and Bezzina F (2015) ‘Reflections on conceptions of research methodology amongst management academics’ European Journal of Management 33.5 297-304

Rojon C and Saunders MNK (2015) Dealing with reviewers’ comments in the publication process Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice 8.2 169-80

Isaeva N, Bachmann R, Bristow A and Saunders MNK (2015 online first) ‘Why the epistemologies of trust researchers matter’ Journal of Trust Research 5.2

Rojon C, McDowall A and Saunders MNK (2015) The relationship between traditional selection assessments and workplace performance criteria specificity: A comparative meta-analysis Human Performance 28.1, 1-25

Saunders MNK, Dietz G and Thornhill A (2014) Trust and distrust: polar opposites, or independent but co-existing? Human Relations 67.6 639-665

Altinay L, Saunders MNK and Wang C (2014) The Influence of Culture on Trust Judgments in Customer Relationship Development by Ethnic Minority Small Businesses. Journal of Small Business Management 52.1 59-78

Doherty C and Saunders MNK (2013) Elective surgical patients’ narratives of hospitalization: The co-construction of safety and harm Social Science and Medicine 98 29-36

Paraskevas A and Saunders MNK (2012) Beyond Consensus: An Alternative use of Delphi Enquiry in Hospitality Research. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 24.6 907-24

Tosey P, Visser M and Saunders MNK (2012) The origins and conceptualisations of triple loop learning: a critical review. Management Learning 43.3 291-307

Saunders MNK (2012) Web versus Mail: The Influence of Survey Distribution Mode on Employees’ Response. Field Methods 24.1 56-73