Theorising and research methods in management research

An integration of philosophy, theory and methods to advance our understanding of academic research

The successful completion of a research project remains core focus of M.Phil / PhD students. It is one of the criteria used to evaluate graduate success. Since the successful completion of a research degree impacts the university ranking and also shapes up the attitude of potential students, its importance cannot be neglected. However, in order to successfully complete the project the graduate students must have the ability to conceptually articulate a management problem that is researchable and has the potential to contribute to existing body of knowledge. Apart from successful completion, the graduate students should also sharpen up their research and problem solving skills. This way it affects the graduate employability that also positively / negatively affects the rankings of universities. Thus a thorough understanding of research philosophy, theory and its processes and methods is important.

The question might arise, why we need to have an understanding of various philosophies in social sciences while the research is conducted in the field of management? I have several opinions here. First, we must understand the complexity of choice of theories and methods? For instance, in order to understand a phenomenon i.e. career choice, what are the various philosophical perspectives and assumptions are available to inform the investigation? One is positivism where I will fix career choice as a dependent variable and would like to bring its antecedents such as reputation of the profession and second, the available choices in terms of job opportunities. This way I am using a deductive approach to advance our understanding of theory in career choice. But why I fixed the reality (career choice) and what is the core reason I opted for deduction- the conditions and processes involved in the choice of problem and an approach to theory building? At a later stage, considering career choice as the example, I decide to employ social cognitive theory to justify the patterns proposed as the framework of my study. However, why I did not opt for self-efficacy theory? Finally, when I decided to conduct a quantitative survey, the question might arise, why I did not opt for an interview / observation or ethnography?

You will notice that all the choices made in the selection of a phenomenon (career choice), positioning a phenomenon (either as a positivist or realist or as an interpretivist), theorizing a phenomenon (theory), and investigating the phenomenon (methods) should be logical, based on some scientific reasoning. Why we opted for the choices- what made us to select a social phenomenon- why we used the methodological choices? The answers to all these questions lie under the debates of philosophy, theory and methods. Thus for a researcher it is an integral part of the degree plan to correctly understand an integration among these three components of an M.Phil / PhD dissertation.

With the help of practical examples from social psychology, I have designed this very exciting course around debates of philosophy, theory and methods. I will share all the material with you to read in order to understand the process and sophistications involved in theorizing in the field of management research.

The course covers specialized topics in the field of management research such as:

  • Understanding philosophies of social science,
  • Positivism, interpretivism and pragmatist social science
  • Socio-psychological theories,
  • Mono-methods and mixed-methods approaches
  • Various philosophical approaches and related methods
  • Choice of techniques, procedures and methods with deeper understanding of research philosophies

After completing this course, you will be able to

  • Understand various research philosophies
  • Explain your PhD idea / thought based on a research philosophy
  • Describe the reasoning behind choice of theories and methods
  • Understand variety of contributions under different philosophical and theoretical choices
  • Successfully complete an M.Phil / PhD dissertation


  • Aquino, K., Grover, S. L., Goldman, B., & Folger, R. (2003). When push doesn’t come to shove: Interpersonal forgiveness in workplace relationships. Journal of Management Inquiry, 12(3), 209-216.
  • Block, J., & Kuckertz, A. (2018). Seven principles of effective replication studies: strengthening the evidence base of management research.
  • Bettis, R. A., Helfat, C. E., & Shaver, J. M. (2016). The necessity, logic, and forms of replication. Strategic Management Journal, 37(11), 2193-2203.
  • Benton, T. and Craib, I., 2001. Philosophy of social science: Philosophical issues in social thought (traditions in social theory).
  • Corley, K. G., & Gioia, D. A. (2011). Building theory about theory building: what constitutes a theoretical contribution?. Academy of management review, 36(1), 12-32.
  • Colquitt, J. A., & Zapata-Phelan, C. P. (2007). Trends in theory building and theory testing: A five-decade study of the Academy of Management Journal. Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), 1281-1303.
  • Elias, S., & Feagin, J. R. (2016). Racial theories in social science: A systemic racism critique. Routledge.
  • Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Swedberg, R. (2017). Theorizing in sociological research: A new perspective, a new departure?. Annual Review of Sociology, 43, 189-206.
  • Swedberg, R. (2016). Before theory comes theorizing or how to make social science more interesting. The British journal of sociology, 67(1), 5-22.
  • Sidani, Y., & Al Ariss, A. (2015). New conceptual foundations for Islamic business ethics: The contributions of Abu-Hamid Al-Ghazali. Journal of business ethics, 129(4), 847-857.
  • Syed, J. (2011). Akbar’s multiculturalism: lessons for diversity management in the 21st century. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration, 28(4), 402-412.
  • Creswell, J.W., 2014. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.
  • Hasan, M.N., 2016. Positivism: to what extent does it aid our understanding of the contemporary social world?. Quality & Quantity, 50(1), pp.317-325.
  • Neuman, W.L., 2014. Basics of social research. Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
  • Saunders, M.N. and Lewis, P., 2012. Doing research in business & management: An essential guide to planning your project. Pearson.
  • Turner, J.H., 2001. The origins of positivism: the contributions of Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer. Handbook of social theory, pp.30-42.
  • Trafimow, D., 2009. The theory of reasoned action: A case study of falsification in psychology. Theory & Psychology, 19(4), pp.501-518.

Muhammad Kashif Saeed Photo

Mr. Muhammad Kashif is currently working with GIFT University, Pakistan as Assistant Professor in the business school. With 15 years of full-time teaching experience within Pakistan and as a visiting professor in several countries, he has published 55 articles with international journals of repute. Recently, he successfully managed a call for papers with British Food Journal as a guest editor, a 120 years old outlet for scholarly publications. Moreover, he has published various cases. Among his notable contributions in writing the cases is the publication of cases in a textbook published by Wiley and a case study published with Emerald. In addition to teaching and research, he is working with Emerald Publishing as Brand Ambassador and has offered online and on-site training programs in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Morocco. He has offered more than 50 training programs as a lead trainer. Academically, the workshops include: writing and publishing for journals, qualitative and quantitative research methods, qualitative data analysis, supervision and teaching in higher education. As a corporate trainer, he has offered training and consultancy in the field of international branding, customer aggression management, employee volunteerism at workplace, marketing strategy, and market segmentation. Muhammad has worked with world renowned academicians and researchers in Asia, Europe, and Africa and brings a diversified experience as an academic as well as a trainer / consultant for corporate world. These days he is working over half a dozen projects with researchers from Russia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Italy, and USA. Moreover, he is editor for South Asian Journal of Marketing, Emerald Publishing. He can be contacted via email:



Webinar video (Theorising and research methods in management research)
90 minutes
Graduation Quiz (Theorising and research methods in management research)
10 questions

Dear CIRI members,

Hope you will enjoy my course and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.



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Theorising and research methods in management research