Reflections on Choosing the Appropriate Level of Abstraction in Social Science Research
15 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 15, 2014
Although researchers often do it subconsciously, every explanation involves choosing a level of abstraction at which the argument proceeds. The dominant North American style of research in Organization Theory, Strategy, and International Business encourages researchers to frame their explanations at the highest level of abstraction where country level contextual factors are suppressed. Yet to provide powerful explanations for recent developments in China, researchers are drawn to a greater level of context specificity. This tension is evident in the Child and Marinova (2014) paper. One way to reduce the tension is to identify general causal mechanisms that combine in different ways to produce different results depending on context. This research strategy is more effective than seeking invariant, general patterns of development across all time and place.
Keywords: Unit of Analysis, Levels of Abstraction, Explanations
JEL Classification: B4, M1, F21, P2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation