Theory Building in Business Administration


Course Objective

Upon completion of this course, students will have:
• Acquired academic knowledge of and insight into the literature on
theory building in business administration
• Further developed their ability to critically analyze and assess
theories related to business administration as well as how their own
work contributes to the existing literature
• Further developed the ability to generate new knowledge through the
thoughtful application of construct development, counterfactual
reasoning, and analogical reasoning tools
• Further developed their skills at communicating about theories with an
academic audience

Course Content

Theory and theory development are seen as crucial to making meaningful
academic contributions to bodies of knowledge in management and
organizational research. Despite its prominence, the constituent
processes around theorizing are often left implicit, and not typically
discussed or taught in doctoral training programs. The course tries to
address this very point; participants will through a series of
exercises, practical assignments and readings be trained in ‘reading’
theory in journal articles, and will also develop skills in the
development and assessment of theory.

The objectives of this course involve: (a) developing further
understanding of issues around management and organizational theory;
what theory is, and what its core components are; (b) developing
reflective skills in theory development; including basic argumentation
and the formulation of propositions, construct clarity and persuasive
writing; (c) developing creative skills in developing theory through
specific forms of reasoning such as conceptual blending and
counter-factual reasoning.

Teaching Methods

We make use of weekly 4-hour sessions, often in the afternoon, that are
organized in a workshop-format
and around ‘soap boxes’ (students presenting required reading articles
and facilitating high-level plenary discussion) and in-class exercises
and break-out groups.

Method of Assessment

The assessment of this course consists of a series of formative tests in
the form of 6 weekly take-home assignments (50 % of the total grade) and
a final assignment (50 % of the grade). These formative tests require
the students to apply the class material learned in the previous class
to their own research topics of interest. The final assignment for the
course will consist of a written essay that describes the participant’s
use of the theory building methods or concepts used in class (e.g.,
construct development, counter-factual reasoning, analogical reasoning)
in the context of their own research. Details on the assignment will be
distributed in class. All of these assignments are individual

Formative assignments need to be handed in via the designated
Blackboard/canvas portal no later than 48 hours before the next class
(e.g., on Mondays 13.00 PM, if the next class is on Wednesdays). Late
assignments will not be graded and count as insufficient. The final
assignment should be handed in two weeks after the latest session in
hard-copy and via the Blackboard Safe Assignment / Canvas portal.


The list of readings will be provided the Canvas site of the

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.

Recommended background knowledge

Moderate to advanced knowledge of a specific content area in the field
of Business Administration (e.g., Organization Theory, Organizational
Behavior, Accounting, Marketing, Logistics, and so forth) is advised.

General Information

Course Code E_BIS_TBBA
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty School of Business and Economics
Course Coordinator dr. F.M. Bridoux
Examiner dr. F.M. Bridoux
Teaching Staff

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture, Study Group
Target audiences

This course is also available as: