Evidence in Management and Organizational Science: Assembling the Field's Full Weight of Scientific Knowledge through Syntheses
Advanced Institute of Management Research Paper No. 067
78 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2008
Date Written: August 1, 2008
This chapter advocates the good scientific practice of systematic research syntheses in Management and Organizational Science (MOS). A research synthesis is the systematic accumulation, analysis and reflective interpretation of the full body of relevant empirical evidence related to a question. It is the critical first step in effective use of scientific evidence. Synthesis is not a conventional literature review. Literature reviews are often position papers, cherry-picking studies to advocate a point of view. Instead, syntheses systematically identify where research findings are clear (and where they aren't), a key first step to establishing the conclusions science supports. Syntheses are also important for identifying contested findings and productive lines for future research. Uses of MOS evidence, that is, the motives for undertaking a research synthesis include scientific discovery and explanation, improved management practice guidelines, and formulating public policy. We identify six criteria for establishing the evidentiary value of a body of primary studies in MOS. We then pinpoint the stumbling blocks currently keeping the field from making effective use of its ever-expanding base of empirical studies. Finally, this chapter outlines a) an approach to research synthesis suitable to the domain of MOS and b) supporting practices to make synthesis a collective MOS project.
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