A CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING OF REQUIREMENTS FOR THEORY-BUILDING RESEARCH: GUIDELINES FOR SCIENTIFIC THEORY BUILDING

Authors


  • *Like all invited papers and invited notes, the original version of this manuscript underwent a double-blind review process.

  • Acknowledgment: The author wishes to thank many of his close friends who have commented and discussed these materials over many years. The author especially wishes to thank Lawrence Fredendall (Clemson University) for his careful reading of this study and many corrections that were important for the development of the study. Additionally, the author wishes to thank his many close advisors. Most notable of these advisors are R. Kenneth Teas (Iowa State University), Shelby Hunt (Texas Tech University), George Maricoulides (California State University-Fullerton) and Daniel Samson (University of Melbourne). Naturally, any errors, omissions, logic faults, and so forth are entirely the fault of the author.

Abstract

Business academics have focused their attention on empirical investigation of programs' effect on organizational competitive performance. These studies primarily emphasize theory building. With the many definitions of theory, academics are not certain whether their research papers meet the specific requirements for theory development required by the academic field of the philosophy of science. Certainly, supply chain academics generally believe that their academic articles fulfill the requirements of theory building. Although many of these articles do have elements of theory, more focus is needed on the specific requirements of theory to assure that academic research is “good” theory building. The primary purpose of this research paper is to logically develop a set of guidelines to assist empirical researchers to assure that their studies fulfill the requirements of good theory based upon traditional scientific theory building. By fulfilling the requirements of good theory, researchers will develop studies that will have a lasting impact on their academic field. To achieve a lasting impact on an academic field, it is necessary to follow a logical plan. This article provides a plan for logical guidelines for developing an understanding of how and why “good” theory building is achieved. This article logically develops a formal conceptual definition of theory along with its related properties to understand these guidelines. Next, it analyzes the requirements of theory, “good” theory, and their properties. These guidelines are included in the existing philosophy of science publications. However, this article consolidates these sources and logically explains why these guidelines are needed. In the conclusion, the guidelines are summarized to serve as a summary checklist for supply chain researchers to use for ensuring their articles will be recognized as a contribution to the academic field. So in that sense, this article does not develop a revolutionary new insight into theory-building empirical articles, but rather integrates diverse traditional philosophy of science requirements into a much simpler set of guidelines. Through logical development of these guidelines, researchers will understand the structure of theory and how to ensure their studies can be modified to have a lasting impact on the field of supply chain management.

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