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Experiments in Organization and Management Research  

Alex Bitektine, Jeff Lucas, Oliver Schilke, and Brad Aeon

Experiments randomly assign actors (e.g., people, groups, and organizations) to different conditions and assess the effects on a dependent variable. Random assignment allows for the control of extraneous factors and the isolation of causal effects, making experiments especially valuable for testing theorized processes. Although experiments have long remained underused in organizational theory and management research, the popularity of experimental methods has seen rapid growth in the 21st century. Gatekeepers sometimes criticize experiments for lacking generalizability, citing their artificial settings or non-representative samples. To address this criticism, a distinction is drawn between an applied research logic and a fundamental research logic. In an applied research logic, experimentalists design a study with the goal of generalizing findings to specific settings or populations. In a fundamental research logic, by contrast, experimentalists seek to design studies relevant to a theory or a fundamental mechanism rather than to specific contexts. Accordingly, the issue of generalizability does not so much boil down to whether an experiment is generalizable, but rather whether the research design matches the research logic of the study. If the goal is to test theory (i.e., a fundamental research logic), then asking the question of whether the experiment generalizes to certain settings and populations is largely irrelevant.