Theory Evaluation

The cycle of theory building approach as discussed in the previous post allow us to see the big picture of theory building process. This way of theory building allows us to integrate the dichotomies in business academia between field-based research and large-sample data analysis; theoretical vs. applied research; between deductive and inductive theory building. Hence, it leads us to develop a good research questions.

There are a few ways to evaluate theory.

  • Falsifiability: must be possible to refute empirically.
  • Utility: refers to the usefulness of theoretical systems.
    • Explain: means establishing meaning of constructs, variables, and linkages
    • Prediction: means testing meaning by comparing it to empirical evidence and theory provides mechanism for predicting beyond chance
Corley and Gioia (2011) discuss theory contribution in terms of different quadrants:
  • Incremental Insight – Is the contribution “significant”? Do we get closer to the truth?
  • Revelatory Insight* – Does it surprise us?
  • Scientific Utility* – Does it improve the conceptual rigor or assist in forming testable predictions?
  • Practical Utility – Can the theory be applied to real-world problems?
Note (*): Papers  further NE in the diagram to the left are considered as providing greater contribution than papers to their SW.
(Adapted from group and course notes)
(Flashcards and other resources here)

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