Bona fide groups: A reconceptualization of groups

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Citation: Linda L. Putnam, Cynthia Stohl (1990) Bona fide groups: A reconceptualization of groups. Communication Studies (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1080/10510979009368307
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1080/10510979009368307
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1080/10510979009368307
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Bona fide groups: A reconceptualization of groups
Wikidata (metadata): Q57602363
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) communication studies (RSS), organizational communication (RSS)


This article is a literature review and agenda-setting piece for small group communication, offering first a review of what is known about small group communication and how the topic has been studied, then exploring gaps in this approach, and finally proposing a new focus on an interlocked question of who/what is studied, and how/where the study occurs. They open by tracing a shift from the laboratory into more natural settings. They offer definitions for several intertwined aspects of small group research: different approaches (descriptive-exploratory), settings (field, laboratory), and types of groups (full-fledged, intact, zero-history, naturally emergent). They go on to describe recent findings, considering the relationship between group success and group isolation. Finally, they elaborate their notion of bona fide groups, which they define as groups for which we consider both stability and permeability of boundaries, and also groups for which we consider the context and relationships between the group, the individual, and external organizations and contexts.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

They propose the notion of "bona fide" groups, which I take to make two contributions to the field: first, to sensitize researchers to questions of boundary permeability and contextual identity, and second, to discourage/exclude some "naturalistic" groups (i.e. a family invited into a lab setting for a researcher-defined task) as well as to discourage/exclude some kinds of "field" studies (i.e. assigning a task to, or observing a meeting among, an existing industrial workgroup without taking into account the pre-existing and post-study relationships among members).