Organizational Theories: Some Criteria for Evaluation
By Samuel B. Bacharach
The objective of this article is to establish some criteria for the construction and evaluation of
organization and management theories. A theory is not a description. A theory is different from
categorization of data, typologies, and metaphors. A theory should be applied within a boundary or
assumptions about values, time, and space to avoid conflicted theoretical interpretation of different
theorists. Within this boundary, variables (observable or concrete entities which is capable of
assuming two or more values) and hypotheses (relationship among variables); or constructs (a broad
abstract configuration of a given phenomenon) and propositions (relationship among propositions),
should be defined. Two primary criteria in evaluation of any theory are falsifiability and utility.
Falsifiability determines whether a theory is constructed such that empirical refutation is possible.
Utility refers to the usefulness of theoretical systems. A matrix framework and criteria for
evaluating theories is presented in below table. The theory is claimed to fit with other theories with
two qualitative dimensions: connectivity and transformation.
Variables Measurement Issues Variable Scope
Constructs Construct Validity Construct Scope
discriminant validity, factor
analysis, concurrent and
Relationships Logical Adequacy (non- Explanatory Potential
tautological or non- (specificity of assumptions
derivation; and specified regarding objects of
nature of relationship) analysis and determinative
Empirical Adequacy relations between
antecedent and consequent;
and scope and parsimony of
(probabilistic and theory-
The idea to evaluate an organizational theory presented in this article is contradict to the article
“Learning the Craft of Organizational Research” by Daft (1983). Daft (1983) suggests seven
elements to form an alternative framework of research method that differs from traditional research
which primarily puts an attention on quantitative or qualitative research methods. One proposed
element is that common sense should not be ignored simply because there is no concrete proof of it.
To use a common sense, metaphor or analogy is employed to provide a linkage between new ideas
and previous experience. Contrarily, Bacharach (1989) argues that a theory should be evaluated
from propositions and hypotheses rather than metaphors.
However, another thought suggesting a boundary or assumptions of value, time, and space in order
to construct an organizational theory is similar to Poole and Van De Ven’ (1989) article of “Using
Paradox to Build Management and Organization Theories,” which argues that time should be taken
into a consideration during the evaluation of a theory paradox.
IS 7890: IS Research Seminar Sp ring 2006