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The lens of theory: Seeing better or differently?

Nordberg, D., 2023. The lens of theory: Seeing better or differently? International Journal of Organizational Theory & Behavior, 26 (1/2), 152-162.

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Nordberg LensOfTheory IJOTB 2022 AAM.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


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DOI: 10.1108/IJOTB-09-2022-0177


Purpose: This article explicates the notion of using a “theoretical lens” to interpret research data, which has grown increasingly common in recent decades, often without a second thought about the implications of use of a mere metaphor in the pursuit of truth. Poets may not question that metaphors reveal truths, but should social scientists accept that? Design/methodology/approach: It looks first at what theory means, then – and in greater detail – what the metaphor of a lens entails. Findings: Drawing on the base analogy in optics, it identifies four mechanisms through which theory might act as a lens – adjustment, correction, distortion, and augmentation-suppression, with examples based on theories of business strategy and organisation studies. Originality: It argues that if some theories try to help us see better, others push us to see differently, with implications for the practice and teaching of research methods. Research implications: These four mechanisms involve two different ways of seeing – better and differently. With adjustment and correction see better what is, or perhaps what was. With distortion and especially augmentation-suppression, we see differently, which helps up imagine what might be, or what we might have overlooked. They help us escape narrow silos of thinking. Researchers and students alike need to be aware of all four lens of theory and be ready to experiment.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:lens; theory; social science research; metaphor; truth
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:37851
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:19 Apr 2023 13:26
Last Modified:21 May 2024 10:03


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