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The presence of something or the absence of nothing: increasing theoretical precision in management research

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2010
<mark>Journal</mark>Organizational Research Methods
Issue number4
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)668-689
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In management research, theory testing confronts a paradox described by Meehl in which designing studies with greater methodological rigor puts theories at less risk of falsification. This paradox exists because most management theories make predictions that are merely directional, such as stating that two variables will be positively or negatively related. As methodological rigor increases, the probability that an estimated effect will differ from zero likewise increases, and the likelihood of finding support for a directional prediction boils down to a coin toss. This paradox can be resolved by developing theories with greater precision, such that their propositions predict something more meaningful than deviations from zero. This article evaluates the precision of theories in management research, offers guidelines for making theories more precise, and discusses ways to overcome barriers to the pursuit of theoretical precision.