How Abductive Reasoning Promotes Robust and Reliable Research Practices

  • No photo
    Peter A. Bamberger

    Prof. Simon I. Domberger Professor of Management & Organizations
    Editor-in-Chief, Academy of Management Discoveries
    Coller School of Management
    Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 6997801, Israel
    Phone: 972-544-834876
    Email Peter
    Peter’s Website

    Peter A. Bamberger is the Prof. Simon I. Domberger Professor of Management and Organizations at Tel Aviv University’s School of Business Administration, Research Director of Cornell University’s Smithers Institute, and Editor-In-Chief of Academy of Management Discoveries (AMD). A member of the Society for Organizational Behavior, and a Fellow of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, he served as an associate editor of Academy of Management Journal, a founding associate editor of AMD, and on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management. His research interests include helping and pro-social behavior, occupational health psychology, and compensation strategy. Author of over 100 refereed journal articles and book chapters, publications include Human Resource Strategy(with Ilan Meshulam and Michal Biron, Routledge, 2014), and Retirement & the Hidden Epidemic: The Complex Link Between Aging, Work Disengagement and Substance Misuse…and What to Do About It (with Samuel Bacharach, Oxford Univ. Press, 2014). He received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Cornell University in 1990.

Management and Organizational research is largely grounded on two basic logics or epistemological approaches, namely induction and deduction. These approaches have served our science well, gaining our field respect among the sciences, and resulting in its rapid growth over the past decades. However, increasingly scholars have begun to question whether the grounding of our field in these two logics alone may, in addition to being overly restrictive, generating obtuse and abstract results and limiting our relevance to the broader community which our science seeks to serve (Hambrick, 2007) may promote questionable research practices. In this talk, I will present a complementary scientific logic, one grounded on abductive reasoning (i.e., inference to the best plausible explanation). Building upon Mantere & Ketokivi’s (2013: 72) statement that, “we predict, confirm, and disconfirm through deduction, generalize through induction, and theorize through abduction,” I will distinguish the latter from these other two, more established scientific logics. After demonstrating how abduction serves as the basis for many other scientific fields, I will argue that it also serves as the under-recognized (and often maligned) basis upon much of what we do as management scholars. Finally, I will discuss the types of situations for which such an approach may be most suitable and how scholars might design and present studies grounded on such a logic in order to maximize theoretical contribution and practical impact, and avoid questionable research practices.

Digital Reader: Resources Recommended by the Speaker:

  • Bamberger, P. (2018). From the Editors: AMD – Clarifying What We’re About and Where We’re Going. Academy of Management Discoveries. In Press.
  • Okhuysen, G. & Behfar, K. (2017). On the “Too Much Theory” Problem: Using Data to Surface Phenomenon, Generate Plausible Explanation, and Offer Insight into Anomalies. Organizational Science,In Press.
  • Peirce, C. S. (1992). Reasoning and the Logic of Things.Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.