Department of Management

Pluralist theory building: A methodology for generalizing from data to theory

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  • Sune Dueholm Müller
  • Lars Mathiassen, Georgia State University
  • ,
  • Carol Saunders, University of South Florida

We propose pluralist theory building as a methodology that leverages the power of multiperspective inquiry to develop new theory from data. The paper presents the rationale for the methodology, its combination of generalization and pluralism, and the process involved in its application. When researchers use pluralist theory building, they move between description and theory and between single and multiple perspectives through four iterative steps with specific deliverables: create perspective accounts, synthesize multiperspective account, create theory fragments, and synthesize pluralist theory. Drawing on a study that served as experiential background for developing the methodology, we offer insights into the challenges involved in using the methodology and the activities in which researchers may engage to address these challenges. In conclusion, we argue that pluralist theory building offers a novel and practically useful approach to empirically based theorizing that leverages Mingers’s pragmatic approach to pluralism (2001) and extends Lee and Baskerville’s (2003) generalization framework into a detailed iterative process with steps, deliverables, challenges, and activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Pages (from-to)23-49
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • Generalization, Metatheory, Pluralism, Theorizing, Theory Building

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