Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings includes abstracts of all papers and symposia presented at the annual conference, plus 6-page abridged versions of the “Best Papers” accepted for inclusion in the program (approximately 10%). Papers published in the Proceedings are abridged because presenting papers at their full length could preclude subsequent journal publication. Please contact the author(s) directly for the full papers.

Using Counterfactuals for Theory Building in Management and Organization Studies

    Counterfactuals can be an important ingredient in theorizing. Qualitative research is particularly useful as a theory-building tool given its openness to context, and counterfactuals provide a welcome broadening of scope when it comes to exploring contexts. Nevertheless, we currently do not know whether and how counterfactuals are used in qualitative research. To rectify this, we offer a systematic review of all empirical qualitative papers actively engaged with counterfactuals published in five top-tier management journals, from the first volume to the most recent. We find that the authors draw on counterfactuals stemming either from within or beyond the empirical context. In addition, counterfactuals (somewhat surprisingly) can take the form of a factual scenario (i.e., an unexpected occurrence within an empirical setting or a contrasting case outside) or of a fictional scenario (i.e., mentally generated ‘what-if’ schemata that probe the causality of the emerging findings – again with sources taken from within the context or beyond). We illustrate the different theoretical gains accruing to the authors by using these four types of counterfactuals individually. Notably, we find that only a minority of authors used several of these types in concert and we reveal how their complementarity can provide further impetus to theorizing.

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