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 and Director of Global Engagement at Birmingham Business School. 

His research interests include:

  • Research methods, in particular participants selection, methods for understanding organizational relationships;
  • Trust and 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. 

 Mark’s work has been recognised by a number awards including a Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences in recognition of contribution to methods and human resource management research and social science researcher development; the British Academy of Management Medal for Leadership in recognition of his contribution to capacity building and a Fellowship of the British academy of Management. In 2021 his textbook Research Methods for Business Students was ranked the World’s most influential business and economics textbook by the “FT (Financial Times) Teaching Power” league table. He is a founding panel member and fellow of the British Academy of management’s Peer Review College. He holds visiting professorships at Birkbeck, University of London and the Universities of Surrey and Worcester.  

Mark’s research has been published widely in journals including Annals of Tourism Research, British Journal of Management, Field MethodsHuman RelationsHuman Resource Management Journal, Journal of Personnel Psychology, Journal of Small Business Management, Management Learning and Social Science and Medicine. He is consulting editor for the International Journal of Management Reviews and European Editor for the Services Industries Journal. He is a steering group member of the First International Network on Trust (FINT).

Mark has co-authored and edited a range of books including Research Methods for Business Students (currently in its eighth edition), How to keep your research project on track: Insights from when things go wrongDoing 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 of Sage’s Understanding Research Methods for Business and Management Students book series and editor of 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 2017 and Director of the Business School’s PhD Programmefrom 2017 to 2020 and is currently the School’s Director of Global Engagement.

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).


  • Foundations of Qualitative Research Methods (College of Social Sciences MA Research Methods/Doctoral Training Programme)
  • Advanced Qualitative IntervierwingInterviewing (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 21 PhDs, 1 DBA and 1 MPhil to successful completion; and examined 38 PhDs, 2 DBAs and 1 MPhil.

He is currently supervising 3 doctoral candidates who are researching various aspects of trust and distrust.

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


Mark’s research falls principally into three inter-related areas: research methods, trust and 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; research transparency; and the development of tools to learn about, understand and improve organizational relationships within engaged scholarship and process consultation frameworks. 

Mark’s work on human resource aspects of the management of change focuses on organisational trust abd organisational learning.  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.
  • Consulting 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, Birckbeck, University of London
  • Visiting Professor, Surrey Business School, University of Surrey
  • Visiting Professor, Worcester Business School, University of Worcester


Selected recent journal articles:

Garavan, T.N., McCarthy, A., Lai, Y., Clarke, N., Carberry, R., Gubbins, C., Sheehan, M. and Saunders, M.N.K  (2021, online first) ‘Putting the System back into Training and Firm Performance Research: A Review a nd Research Agenda’ Human Resource Management Journal. DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12337 

Darabi, F, Saunders MNK and Clark, M (2021) ‘Trust initiation and development in SME-University collaborations: implications for enabling engaged scholarship’ European Journal of Training and Development. 45, 4/5, 320-345. 

Isaeva N, Gruenewald K, Saunders MNK (2020, online first) ‘Trust theory and customers service research: theoretical review and synthesis’ The Services Industries Journal. 

Garavan, T, MacCarthy, A, Sheehan, M, Lai, Y, Clarke, N, Saunders, MNK, Carbery, R and Shanahan, V. (2019) ‘Measuring the organisational impact of training: The need for greater methodological rigor’ Human Resource Development Quarterly 30. 291-309.

Rojon, C, McDowall, A and Saunders MNK (2019) ‘A novel use of Honey’s aggregation approach to the analysis of repertory grids’ Field Methods 31.2 150-166

Terzidou M, Scarles C and Saunders MNK (2018) ‘The complexities of religious tourism motivations: sacred places, vows and vision’s Annals of Tourism Research 70 May 54-65

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

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

Selected recent books: 

Townsend, K, Saunders MNK, Loudon, R and Morrison EA (2020, editors) How to keep you doctorate on track: Insights from students’ and supervisors’ experiences Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Saunders MNK, Lewis P and Thornhill A (2019) Research Methods for Business Students (8th edn,) Harlow:  Pearson Education

Townsend K and Saunders MNK (2018, editors) 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, 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) Handbook of Research Methods on Trust (2nd edition) 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

Selected recent book chapters:

Hughes, C. and Saunders M.N.K. (2021) Building and maintaining trust in virtual teams. In D. Wheatley, I. Hardill and S. Buglass (eds) Handbook of Research on Remote Work and Well-Being in the Post-COVID-19 Era. Hershey, PA: IGI Global 264-285 

Isaeva, N, Hughes, C and Saunders MNK (2019) ‘Trust, Distrust and Human Resource Management’ in K Townsend, K Cafferekey, Dundon, T and McDermott, A (eds.) Elgar Introduction to Theories of Human Resources and Employment Relations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 247-263

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

Terzidou M, Scarles C and Saunders MNK (2018) ‘The Vow and Tourist Travel’ in RW Butler and W Suntikul (Eds.) Tourism and Religion: Issues and Implications. Bristol: Channelview Publications 117-127

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 social media

Saunders MNK and Hughes C (2021) Creating and maintiaining trust through leadership. University of Birmingham Centre for Responsible Business Webinar. 7 Septermber 2021. (YouTube Video) Available at: 

Saunders MNK (2021) Can you trust your teams? Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Podcast 99. 21 March 2021. (Podcast). Available at: 

Holmes M, Saunders MNK and Wheeler N (2020) UN general assembly: why virtual meetings make it hard for diplomats to trust each other. The Conversation (22 September). Available at: 

Saunders MNK (2020) What constitutes excellence in research and does it matter? (Webinar, HEC Leige). Available at: 

Saunders MNK and Nyfoudi M (2020) Mainitaining employees’ trust in leaders during lockdown. 1 June 2020 (Blog). Available at:

Culture and collections

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