Boundary Conditions: What They are, How to Explore Them, Why We Need Them, and When to Consider Them

64 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2016

See all articles by Christian Busse

Christian Busse

Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg

Andrew Kach

ETH Zürich - Department of Management, Technology, and Economics (D-MTEC)

Stephan M. Wagner

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Chair of Logistics Management

Date Written: November 25, 2015

Abstract

Boundary conditions (BC) have long been discussed as an important element in theory development, referring to the “Who, Where, When” aspects of a theory. However, it still remains somewhat vague as to what exactly BC are, how they can or even should be explored, and why their understanding matters. This research tackles these important questions by means of an in-depth theoretical-methodological analysis. The study contributes fourfold to organizational research methods: First, it develops a more accurate and explicit understanding of BC. Second, it widens the understanding of how BC can be explored by suggesting and juxtaposing new tools and approaches. It also illustrates BC-exploring processes, drawing on two empirical case examples. Third, it analyzes the reasons for exploring BC, concluding that BC exploration fosters theory development, strengthens research validity, and mitigates the research-practice gap. Fourth, it synthesizes the analyses into 12 tentative suggestions for how scholars should subsequently approach the issues surrounding BC. The authors hope that the study contributes to consensus shifting with respect to BC and draws more attention to BC.

Keywords: Boundary condition; context; generalizability; research-practice gap; theorizing; validity

JEL Classification: M10

Suggested Citation

Busse, Christian and Kach, Andrew and Wagner, Stephan M., Boundary Conditions: What They are, How to Explore Them, Why We Need Them, and When to Consider Them (November 25, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2713980 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2713980

Christian Busse (Contact Author)

Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg ( email )

Ammerländer Heerstr. 114-118
Oldenburg, D-26129
Germany

Andrew Kach

ETH Zürich - Department of Management, Technology, and Economics (D-MTEC) ( email )

ETH-Zentrum
Zurich, CH-8092
United States

Stephan M. Wagner

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Chair of Logistics Management ( email )

Department of Management, Technology and Economics
Weinbergstrasse 56/58
Zurich, 8092
Switzerland
+41 44 632 3259 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1526 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.scm.ethz.ch

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