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IWU OCLS Tutorials: Leadership Research Guide


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Leadership in Specialized Industries Research for Master's Level Students


This guide is for master's students who are researching leadership in various industries. 



Understanding the Challenge


One of the essential components of your degree is the integration of leadership theories, models, concepts, or frameworks into specific industry contexts. While leadership theories like authentic leadership, transformational leadership, or servant leadership are well-established, their application in less-researched sectors, such as the manufacturing industry, can be both challenging and rewarding.


In many cases, leadership theories have been extensively explored in specific industries or career fields, leaving fewer resources for those seeking to apply these theories in niche sectors. With leadership research, you are not only expected to comprehend these theories but also adapt and innovate them to suit the unique demands of your chosen industry.


Incorporating leadership theories into specialized industries requires a deep understanding of the theories themselves and how they intersect with and impact various aspects of business and organizational procedures. This includes analyzing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) factors and adapting leadership strategies accordingly.




Becoming an Industry Expert


To successfully integrate leadership theories into specialized industries while considering business/organization procedures and SWOT analyses, you must strive to become an expert in your chosen field.



As you embark on your journey to become an expert in your chosen industry, consider using Google as a preliminary research tool.

Begin by searching for discussions, articles, or blog posts related to your topic within the industry. It's often surprising how much valuable insight and anecdotal experience can be found online. Niche research will sometimes benefit from individual real-world examples that may be found on Google, balanced with general peer-reviewed research.

However, exercise caution and critical thinking when using Google or anecdotal examples in your research. Not all information on the internet is reliable or peer-reviewed, so cross-reference and verify data whenever possible.

While Google can provide a helpful starting point to identify industry trends and discussions, remember that rigorous academic research, peer-reviewed literature, professional reports, and direct industry engagement remain the pillars of your expertise-building journey.


In-Depth Industry Research

Begin by conducting extensive research on the sector or industry you have chosen. Examine business/organization procedures, industry-specific challenges, and opportunities. 


SWOT Analysis

Perform a SWOT analysis on the target industry, focusing on the internal and external factors that affect leadership strategies and decision-making. This analysis will help you align leadership concepts with industry realities.




Forge connections with professionals, practitioners, and experts in your chosen industry. Attend industry-specific events and engage in discussions about leadership challenges and opportunities.


Company Engagement

Contact companies and organizations directly to gather insights into their business/organization procedures and SWOT analyses. Collaborate with these organizations to gain firsthand experience and data.


Companies & Organizations

Company and organization websites can provide a wealth of information, particularly for public companies. Look for press releases, investor information, presentations, annual reports, or "community" reports.


NOTE: Use information from the company carefully and watch for bias or an overly optimistic interpretation of factual data. 




Utilizing Library Resources


Although your specialized industry may not be as extensively covered in library databases as more mainstream sectors, you can still leverage library resources effectively:


Specialized Journals

Look for industry-specific journals that may contain articles related to leadership theories, SWOT analyses, and business/organization procedures. 

Use the OCLS Journal Titles search to find journals available through IWU Libraries. 


Industry Reports

Explore market research reports and industry analyses that provide data and insights relevant to your research.

Linked above are three library databases for industry reports, Business Source Complete, First Research Industry Studies, and Mergent Archives. 


Reverse Title Search

If you find a helpful article, look at the references cited. This can help you find other valuable sources.

You can use a Reverse Title Search in QUICKsearch to see if the cited source is available through IWU Libraries.


Interlibrary Loan

In addition to exploring specialized journals and industry reports, don't forget to leverage the powerful resource known as interlibrary loan (ILL). Interlibrary loan allows you to access materials that IWU Libraries does not own. If you come across books, articles, or documents related to your research that aren't available through IWU, you can request them through ILL from other libraries.

Access the IWU Interlibrary Loan platform to make ILL requests. 

If you have questions about ILL, see the InterLibrary Loan FAQ page


Interdisciplinary Approaches

Consider interdisciplinary research that combines leadership studies with other fields, such as business management, strategy, or organizational behavior, to gain a holistic perspective.




Original Research


At some point, your leadership research will become niche research that has not been researched before. This is called a gap in the literature. 

To bridge the gap between leadership theories, business/organization procedures, SWOT analyses, and your specialized industry, you will need to conduct original research:


Surveys and Interviews

Design surveys or conduct interviews with industry professionals to collect primary data.


Case Studies

Analyze real-life case studies within your industry sector, focusing on how leadership models were applied in response to specific SWOT factors.


Action Research

Implement and evaluate leadership interventions within your industry, tracking the impact on SWOT variables and overall business/organization procedures.




Ethical Considerations


Maintain the highest ethical standards in your research, especially when engaging with organizations and individuals. Obtain proper permissions and ensure the confidentiality and anonymity of your sources when required.




Seeking Guidance


Regularly consult your instructor, advisor, or mentors for guidance and feedback throughout your research journey. They can provide valuable insights and direction to help you navigate the challenges of integrating leadership theories into specialized industries.


In conclusion, your journey to becoming an expert in applying leadership theories to niche industries may require creativity, persistence, and resourcefulness. By combining the fundamentals of leadership theory and business models with industry-specific knowledge and original research, you will contribute to the academic field and significantly impact your chosen industry.




Library Research Help

The library is here to help you learn how to navigate the databases as you start your research. However, keep in mind eventually, your research will become focused on a leadership niche that will require you to apply concepts to your industry and may require you to do original research. 


Best of luck with your research! Pursuing knowledge is a rewarding adventure that'll take you places you never expected. Enjoy the ride! 


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