TitleTheory Pruning: Strategies for Reducing our Dense Theoretical Landscape
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsLeavitt, K, Mitchell, T, Peterson, J
JournalOrganizational Research Methods
Date Published2010

The current article presents a systematic approach to theory pruning (defined here as hypothesis specification and study design intended to bound and reduce theory). First, we argue that research that limits theory is underrepresented in the organizational sciences, erring overwhelmingly on the side of confirmatory null hypothesis testing. Second, we propose criteria for determining comparability, deciding when it is appropriate to test theories or parts of theories against one another. Third, we suggest hypotheses or questions for testing competing theories. Finally, we revisit the spirit of ‘‘strong inference.’’ We present reductionist strategies appropriate for the organizational sciences, which extend beyond traditional approaches of ‘‘critical’’ comparisons between whole theories. We conclude with a discussion of strong inference in organizational science and how theory pruning can help in that pursuit.