Author Identifier

Johannes Pieter Groenewald

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans

Second Supervisor

Emeritus Professor Mark Hackling


High-quantitative and quality research performance is critical to the reputation and success of a university and plays a vital role in developing the socio-economic status of a country. There is, however, limited knowledge about the contextual factors that impact on research performance, especially in universities that are new or not yet research-intensive. One such young university is the Another New Research University (ANRU), the setting for this research. To become competitive and sustainable, especially young universities, need to increase both the quality and volume of their research to improve research performance.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify and explore which contextual factors impacted on academics’ research performance at ANRU. The research drew on organisation development and phenomenological theoretical perspectives to make sense of the socially constructed realities of the participants’ lived experience of their research work. A purposefully selected stratified sample of 31 participants was interviewed to explore their experiences of research. The participants included research-active academics and research leaders from both the Humanities and the Natural Sciences Executive leaders were also included as participants. Academics from the departments in the Humanities (DOH), Sciences (DOS), and leaders (RLC) provided three datasets. The transcribed datasets were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as the primary technique supported by analysis techniques advocated in grounded theory.

Reported experiences led to the identification of three contextual themes, namely: personal, work and external contexts. These contexts comprise 11 contextual factors in total from the three independent cases. Participants rank-ordered these factors to indicate which three factors most facilitated, and which three factors most hampered, their research. The three most facilitating factors, overall, were the personal profile, academics’ interactions, both from the personal contextual theme, and community impact from the external contextual theme. In contrast, the factors that constrained research performance the most, namely financial resources, work content, and environmental capability were all from the work contextual theme. Data from the six high impact factors revealed distinct differences amongst the different academic levels and between the two broad disciplines. The contextual work theme highlighted the most apparent differences.

Not only did the study contribute new insights about the personal context and external context to the commonly studied work context domain, but it also highlighted the potential and compounded impact that these three contexts could have on research performance. Experiences reported by the participants led to insights about the wellbeing of academics being affected by role identity issues and competing demands. These role identity issues were mainly because of approach-approach conflicts amongst professional, teaching and research sub-identities nested in the academic role.

The results from this research have allowed the development of a theoretical framework and a high-performance adaptive model that could guide the implementation of comprehensive and integrated strategies to improve research performance at mainly young universities.