Theory Building for Hypothesis Specification in Organizational Studies


Badrinarayan Shankar Pawar

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    This book is dedicated, with apologies and with prayers for forgiveness, to all those who suffered because of me and, with gratitude, to those who nourished, taught, and helped me. In particular, the author dedicates this book to, among others who cannot be identified, his teachers, the families of his brothers and sister, his late father and his mother, and his Guruji (spiritual mentor).

    About the Author

    Badrinarayan Shankar Pawar is Professor, Organisational Behavior and Human Resources, at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode. He has taught at various institutes including Oklahoma State University (mostly as a teaching associate during his PhD studies), City University of Hong Kong (1997–2001), Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, India (2001–2005), and XLRI School of Business and Human Resources (2007–2008).

    He has taught various subjects including human resource management, organizational behavior-related subjects, business research methods, research methods, and advanced research methods.

    Dr Pawar received his PhD from Oklahoma State University in 1996. He also received the membership of Phi Kappa Phi in recognition of his academic performance in the PhD program.

    His coauthored/solo academic works include papers published in Academy of Management Review, Long Range Planning, Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Journal of Business Ethics, Best Papers Proceedings of the Academy of Management, a chapter in Handbook of Organizational Citizenship Behavior (2005, Nova Science Publishers, Inc.), and paper presentations at the Academy of Management. He has also served as the guest editor for a special issue of Journal of Organizational Change Management on Transformational Leadership (2004, Volume 17[2]). His recent work on the topic of workplace spirituality includes one paper published in the Leadership and Organization Development Journal in 2008 and another paper published in Journal of Business Ethics in 2009.

    His areas of research interests include organizational citizenship behavior, transformational leadership, and workplace spirituality.

    List of Figures

    • 1.1 A Part of Theory of Employee Behaviors 2
    • 1.2 A Perspective of Research Process 6
    • 4.1 A Possible Set of Interrelationships between Various Units of a Theory 63
    • 5.1 A Hypothetical Example of a Typology of Different Employee Types 71
    • 7.1 A Mediator Variable 110
    • 7.2 A Moderator Variable 114
    • 7.3 A Hypothetical Example of a Theoretical Model 117


    What This Book is about

    This book seeks to describe various aspects of theory building for hypothesis specification in organizational studies. It is based on various sources including my study of some of the literature on various aspects of theory building, my training in research methods, my teaching of theory building in my research methods courses for research degree program students, and my observation of the practice of theory building for hypothesis specification as reflected in the published papers in academic journals. This book is not about theory-building process associated with the specification of grand theories. Rather it is about doing theory building for specifying hypotheses, which can be taken up for subsequent empirical examination. Thus, its scope is narrower than the focus of works that may address theory building for developing grand theories or theories in general. However, in the last chapter, the book outlines how the approach for theory building for hypothesis specification contained in it can be extended to specify simple theories that focus on a narrowscoped phenomenon.

    Why This Book is Needed

    My observation is that there is no book available that can comprehensively guide research degree program students in the actual procedure of theory building for hypothesis specification as required in routine research. My prayer is that this book can provide some of the relevant inputs to address this requirement of research degree program students. This book may also provide some relevant inputs to other researchers who seek to do academic research or have been doing academic research but have not been trained in the area of theory building.

    The Approach of This Book

    Some of the features of this book are as follows. First, this book is grounded in the literature that is mostly of international origin. Several papers cited and used come from academically respected international journals. Second, the literature base covered includes a reasonably long period and both old and contemporary works. Third, the approach to theory building outlined by me in this book reflects inputs from various sources, such as views contained in the literature related to theory building and practice of theory building for hypothesis specification in the papers published in academic journals. Fourth, this book provides an exposure to both the contents of theory as well as the process of theory building for hypothesis specification. Fifth, it outlines a procedure for theory building for hypothesis specification and also provides illustrations of the procedure. The illustration is done in two ways—by using one hypothetical example through most of book and by describing and analyzing several examples of theory building for hypothesis specification from papers published in academic journals. Sixth, the descriptions and illustrations of the procedure for theory building for hypothesis specification are provided after describing other basic aspects of theory. Thus, the description and illustration of the theory-building procedure is preceded by the description of what a theory is, what the units or components of a theory are, and the role of a theory in the larger context of reality, knowledge, science, and research. This feature of the book may help the reader to see the detailed procedure of theory building for hypothesis specification and to also see the larger context of knowledge generation process (for example, science and research) in which this detailed procedure constitutes only one part.

    Structure of This Book's Contents

    This book contains seven chapters. Chapter 1 is titled “An Introduction to Theory Building and this Book.” It provides a brief introduction to theory, outlines why theory and theory building is required. It also outlines the relevance, approach, and focus of this book. Chapter 2 is titled “Theory in the Broader Context of Reality, Knowledge, Science, and Research.” It places theory in the larger process of research and science. Chapter 3 is titled “Theory: What it is and its Role in Research.” It describes theory in various ways by referring to its purpose and features, and indicates how these descriptions are consistent with some of the definitions and descriptions of theory in the existing literature. It also outlines various roles of theories including simplification of the representation of the empirical world, facilitation of explanation and prediction goals of science, facilitation of a connection between conceptual and empirical research, facilitation of economy in empirical research, and facilitation of the identification of areas of advancement for science. Chapter 4 is titled “Units of Theory.” It outlines what a theory contains. Seven units or components of theory outlined in this chapter are: (i) domain, (ii) concepts, (iii) variables, (iv) definitional statements, (v) premises, (vi) propositions, and (vii) hypotheses. Chapter 5 is titled “Some Aspects of the Process of Theory Building for Hypothesis Specification.” It outlines the steps involved in the process of theory building for hypothesis specification. In particular, it describes some aspects associated with logical reasoning process involved in specifying hypotheses from premises. It uses a few hypothetical examples to illustrate the process of logical argument specification part of theory building for hypothesis specification. How reasoning process is applied to a set of premises is illustrated through these examples. Chapter 6 is titled “Theory Building for Hypothesis Specification: Observations and Examples from Published Research.” It outlines some categories, which I have used to describe some of my observations of the practice of theory building for hypothesis specification in published papers from academic journals to illustrate through them some of the aspects of the process of theory building for hypothesis specification outlined in Chapter 6. There is some variety in the theory-building process associated with the categories included in this chapter. Chapter 7 is titled “Theory Building for Hypothesis Specification: Some Extensions.” It outlines how theory building for hypothesis specification described in the preceding parts of the book can be extended to specify hypotheses involving mediation and moderation, which are two of the ways of developing more complex and explanatory theoretical models of a phenomenon. In describing this extension also, hypothetical examples and examples from published literature are used as illustrations. This chapter also outlines how theory building for hypothesis specification outlined in this book can be extended to specify more comprehensive theoretical models and to specify simple theories. Here, theory building for hypothesis specification, which may typically form one of the parts of an empirical paper, is extended to outlining theory-building process for specifying a theory (which by itself could constitute a conceptual research paper). This chapter subsequently outlines some other inputs on and approaches to theory building by drawing on some literature. It finally places theory building for hypothesis specification in the larger process of research and links it to other activities, such as literature review, that are likely to be associated with it.


    The author gratefully acknowledges debt to various scholars from whose work understanding has been used, with appropriate acknowledgment and citation, in various parts of the book. The author also gratefully acknowledges debt to the authors, publishers, and copyright owners of various documents such as journal articles and books from where understanding, content, and text have been used, with appropriate acknowledgments and citations, at various places in the book. The author also acknowledges his debt to XLRI School of Business and Human Resources where some part of the work on this book was completed and to the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, where the later part of the work on this book was completed. The author is grateful to his students in Research Methods courses as teaching that course over a number of years has provided some of the inputs that facilitated his work on this book. The author is grateful to all those who have helped him to consider doing this work and to actually complete this work. In particular, the goodness received from various individuals—Dr Eastman, Dr Meinhart Dr Stone, Dr Barr, Professor Khandwalla, Professor Monippally, Professor Vijaya, Professor Bannerjee, and Professor Krishnamoorthy—is gratefully acknowledged. The blessings of Gurudevji are gratefully acknowledged. Finally, support, help, tolerance, acceptance, and kindness provided by the families of my brothers and sister—Dattatraya and Tulsa, Ashok and Indulekha, Parshuram and Rajani—and my mother is gratefully acknowledged.

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    Author Index

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