The Advantages of Starting with Theory: Addressing the Issue of HARKing
Yeung Kin Man Professor in Business Administration
Chair Professor of Management and Head of Department
Director, Centre for Leadership and Innovation
Department of Management & Marketing
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Jason D. Shaw is Yeung Kin Man Professor in Business Administration, Chair Professor of Management, Head of Department of Management and Marketing, and Director of the Centre for Leadership and Innovation in the Faculty of Business at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas in 1997. He is the Editor of Academy of Management Journal (2016-2019). His research has appeared or been accepted for publication in the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Personnel Psychology, and Journal of Management, among other scientific outlets. He has served or is serving on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Journal of Management, among others. He has been invited for visiting scholar positions and other speaking engagements in China, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Spain, Israel, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Belgium, Thailand, and the USA. Prior to his appointment at PolyU, he was the Curtis L. Carlson School-wide Professor in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, the Clark Material Handling Company Professor at the University of Kentucky, an assistant professor at Drexel University, and an analyst for the Boeing Company.
Post-result theorizing or HARKing (hypothesizing after the results are known; Kerr, 1998) seems to remain a popular choice for authors of quantitative papers. Editorials sounding bells of undesirability and unethicality and papers presenting evidence of its biasing influence on the literature do not appear to have stemmed the flow of papers using this approach. To take the issue in a different direction, I have attempted to present a case that the practice often leaves a trail of problematic signals that are uncovered in the review process and frequently lead to rejection. If authors prefer that their hypothesis-driven deductive research receives more favorable reactions in the review process, I encourage them to consider carefully the advantages of starting with theory as an alternative to a results driven retrospective theorizing approach.
Digital Reader: Resources Recommended by the Speaker
Baer, M., & Shaw, J. D. 2017. Falling in Love Again with What We Do: Academic Craftsmanship in the Management Sciences. Academy of Management Journal, 60: 1213-1217.
Shaw, J. D. 2017. Advantages of starting with theory. Academy of Management Journal, 60: 819-822.