Theory Building: A Review and Integration

Dean A. Shepherd, Roy Suddaby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

262 Citations (Scopus)


Building theories is important for advancing knowledge of management. But it is also a highly challenging task. Although there is a burgeoning literature that offers many theorizing tools, we lack a coherent understanding of how these tools fit together—when to use a particular tool and which combination of tools can be used in the theorizing process. In this article, we organize a systematic review of the literature on theory building in management around the five key elements of a good story: conflict, character, setting, sequence, and plot and arc. In doing so, we hope to provide a richer understanding of how specific theorizing tools facilitate aspects of the theorizing process and offer a clearer big picture of the process of building important theories. We also offer pragmatic empirical theorizing as an approach that uses quantitative empirical findings to stimulate theorizing.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)59-86
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • creativity
  • entrepreneurship theory
  • grounded theory
  • philosophy of science


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