Philosophy of Science for Business Administration


Course Objective

Upon successful completion of this course, students will
• Know the key concepts and problems in the philosophy of science.
• Have developed the capacity to critically evaluate and defend concepts
and approaches in management and organization theory with regards
to fundamental problems in the philosophy of science.
• Have started developing their capacity to employ the different
research traditions in their own research projects.

Course Content

This course aims to explore questions in the philosophy of science and
to discuss them in relation to examples from different areas of business
studies, with a particular focus given on understanding differences and
similarities of the positivistic, interpretative, and critical
approaches to
management research. Among the key questions addressed and
discussed within the course are: What is science? How do we decide what
is scientific and what is not? How can we demarcate science from other
activities? What are the ontological foundations, goals and
epistemological interests of different scientific paradigms? What are
philosophical problems that are particular to business research? Can
be objective and value-free? What are implications for theory

Teaching Methods

Weekly: One 2-hour session during 6 weeks of interactive lectures
and discussions including student team presentations. Students need to
come prepared (reading literature and writing a short essay each week).

Method of Assessment

• Individual essays (6) written by students based on the literature
• Presentation of different articles in groups and leading of discussion
during class (1-2 per team of 2-3 students, depending on class size)
• Final assignment (individual essay) (30%)
• Participation in class (20%)

Conditions to pass the course
• The score for each individual essay, as well as the other assignments,
must be 5.5 or higher, and the final grade is the average of all essays,
and must be higher than 5.5.
• Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than one class will
not pass the course.

• In the case of a resit only the individual assignments can be retaken;
• Results obtained for the group presentations will remain valid.


Tentative reading list:
- Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Understanding
research philosophies and approaches. In: Saunders et al.: Research
Methods for Business Students. Essex: Pearson: 106-119.
- Scherer, A.G. (2003). Modes of explanation in organization theory. In:
Tsoukas, H. & Knudsen, C. (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Organization
Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 310-344
- Burrell, G. & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological Paradigms and
Organizational Analysis. Ashgate: Hants & Burlington. Read only part 1:
In search of a framework: 1-37.
- Gioia, D. & Pitre, E. (1990). Multiparadigm Perspectives on Theory
Building. Academy of Management Review, 15: 584-602.
- Willmott, H. (2003). Organization Theory as a Critical Science? Forms
of Analysis and `New Organizational Forms`. In: Tsoukas, H. & Knudsen,
C. (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory. Oxford: Oxford
University Press: 88-112.
- Bacharach, S. (1989). Organizational theories: Some criteria for
evaluation. Academy of Management Review, 14: 496-515.
- Gibbert, M. & Ruigrok, W. (2010). The ''What'' and ''How'' of Case
Study Rigor: Three Strategies Based on Published Work.
Research Methods, 13: 710-737.

A complete and final list of literature will be provided by the
instructor at the
beginning of the course.

Target Audience

Due to the entry requirements of the programme, the courses of the
Research Master Business in Society are only available for students
registered for this master’s programme and, upon approval of the
programme director, to other Research Master programmes or PhD students.

General Information

Course Code E_BIS_PSBA
Credits 3 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty School of Business and Economics
Course Coordinator dr. C.M.J. Wickert
Examiner dr. C.M.J. Wickert
Teaching Staff dr. C.M.J. Wickert

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture
Target audiences

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