orgtheory.net

interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary?

Brayden

Organizational studies are supposed to be an interdisciplinary field that draws on economics, sociology, psychology, and other social sciences to better understand how organizations work. But is the field truly interdisciplinary or is it multidisciplinary, consisting of several disciplines having their own non-overlapping conversations? In a recent article in the Academy of Management Journal, management scholars Rajshree Agarwal and Glenn Hoetker assess the relationship of the field to the disciplines. Their conclusion is that management theory, which is really a subset of organizational studies, has never fully integrated the disciplines and has continued down a path of multidisciplinarity.

[W]e find little evidence that the management literature (as represented by AMJ) engages in interdisciplinary discussion as it moves forward. The partial exception is sociology, which appears to have disseminated more broadly within the management literature (pg. 1317).

This conclusion is based on a citation analysis of articles appearing in the Academy of Management Journal from 1980 to 2005. Most AMJ articles that cite disciplinary journals tend to be cited in return by other AMJ articles situated within the same discipline or are cited by the same disciplinary journals they are citing in the first place. Thus, an article with a strong sociological emphasis in AMJ tends not get cited by articles with an economics or psychology emphasis. Management articles that do not have disciplinary emphases, in contrast, have gradually begun to cite more disciplinary articles over time, but the correlation is still low.

Of all the disciplines, the one that has become most mainstream in management circles is sociology. Management scholars – people trained in business schools who don’t often cite articles from the disciplinary journals – are more likely to cite a sociology-based article in AMJ than they would cite a psychology or economics-based article.

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Written by brayden king

January 18, 2008 at 12:23 am

Posted in academia, brayden

4 Responses

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  1. Management scholars – people trained in business schools who don’t often cite articles from the disciplinary journals – are more likely to cite a sociology-based article in AMJ than they would cite a psychology or economics-based article.

    Brayden, do you have any thoughts on why this might be? The snark in me imagines that because sociology has been a much more loosely-organized discipline (or at least much more disagreement around core concepts/levels/mechanisms), it is being used as a hand-waving mechanism. What thinkest thou?

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    Peter

    January 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm

  2. Hmm, good question. Here are some possible explanations.

    I think there’s some truth to the idea that the core ideas in sociology are so loosely defined that it is much easier for an outsider to break in and get some grasp of the literature. In some ways, sociology can be whatever you want it to be. Not so with economics.

    It could be methodological. Like my law scholar friend once said after reading a bunch of organizational sociology – it ain’t rocket science! (And he didn’t mean that in a negative way.) Economics, by comparison, has very high methodological boundaries that keep most outsiders away. The start-up costs to doing sociology (or at least sociology-lite) are fairly low.

    On a more positive note, sociology has a lot of good ideas that can be used in an applied setting. Sociologists, however aren’t thrilled about doing applied work and so they leave it to others, like management scholars. Management research may be an example of applied sociology. One critique you could make about much of the management research is that it doesn’t contribute to sociology’s theoretical development. Management research, for the most part, draws on sociological ideas to explore empirical phenomena in the world of business. Because sociology has a lot of good ideas, there is a lot of underdeveloped potential for application.

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    brayden

    January 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm

  3. There was a discussion of the difference between the two here: http://www.studyoftime.org/TimesNews/Times_News_06.pdf

    I particularly recommend my own piece. :-)

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    zatavu

    January 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

  4. FWIW, the link above is dead. Would be interested to read it if there was an updated link.

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    Alex

    November 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm


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