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Assignment 5

Article Reference 1: Davis, M. S. (1986). 'That's Classic!' The Phenomenology and


Rhetoric of Successful Social Theories. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 16(3), 285-301.
doi: 10.1177/004839318601600301
Article Reference 2: Pool, M. S., & Van de Ven, A. H. (1989). Using paradox to build
management and organizational theories. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 582-578.
Article Reference 3: Whetten, D. A. (2002). Modelling-as-theorizing: A systematic
methodology for theory development. Essential skills for management research, 45-71.
Critical analysis by: Ahsan Naeem Lone
Program: PhD Management
I.D: 14007051008
Submitted to: Dr. Tashfeen Azhar
Within the domain of social sciences, the debate regarding how to write good theory has been
one which has presented multiple perspectives from different academicians. These perspectives
range from considering the process of theory building as an art form i.e. it is highly dependent on
the agenda and the approach which the writer has taken to either generate new theory or build up
on existing one, and that the approach taken is unique and idiosyncratic to the writer/researcher.
The other end of the continuum takes a more process based approach towards writing good
theory, stating that researchers should employ strict methodological procedures while building
theory so that it conforms to the standards of scientific evaluation when considered and reviewed
by the intended audience. However, there is a third perspective which can create synthesis
between both these approaches (one which offers intellectual and creative freedom but does not
guarantee academic validation and the other which is reciprocal to the first one). In my view, the
synthesis mainly focuses on two key aspects: the nature of content of research and the
methodology employed towards building theory.
While academic opinions vary on the importance of applying certain methodological procedures,
the viewpoint regarding the nature of the research content itself is more singular, with the
broader demand being that theory should be interesting; and since the debate of methodology is
more opinionated, we can assess that the nature of content determines whether the theory is
interesting or not. The next question that can arise from this logic is that what is meant by the
nature of content. The nature of content in our assessment can again be subjected to multiple
interpretations. For the purpose of this essay, it is assumed that the content of the theory should
be written in a way which asserts the underlying importance of the phenomena under
observation. Hence, the phenomena should be such that it addresses key themes central to the
intended audience but the findings should be such that they are in contrast to the beliefs which

are held strongly by the audience. In doing so, the theory has the potential to attract interest of
the audience. This approach of presenting alternative realities to the preconceived perceptions of
the current one hook the audience in. But, while nature of the content can be considered as the
sizzle, it will be incomplete without the steak i.e. methodology.
The methodological routes that can be taken towards building theory are again open to subjective
validation. The movement towards creating objectivity in assessing good theory is forwarded
from the scientific method of evaluation and validation. In that regard, methodologies employed
must be such that they can be evaluated along the line of robustness and rigor that are based on
the scientific method. Keeping this in view, certain propositions have been provided which
provide their own methodological versions pertaining to building theory. These approaches either
work up on broad conceptualizations i.e. they provide general guidelines on how to write theory,
or are more focused i.e. they employ strict procedures which have to be undertaken by the
researcher when building theory. Conclusively, writing good theory falls down to dealing with
trade-offs between creativity and structure. Their never seems to be a balance on both ends and
that can be attributed to the demands of the intended audience and that what they are interested
in which sets the direction for the researcher that will be taken in writing theory.