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Philosophy of Science and Epistemological Methods in Business, Management and Organization Studies - 3 ECTS Cancelled

Date and time

Monday 17 June 2024 at 09:00 to Wednesday 19 June 2024 at 16:00

Registration Deadline

Wednesday 8 May 2024 at 23:55


Porcelænshaven - room PH18B 1.18 (first floor), Porcelænshaven 18B, 2000 Frederiksberg Porcelænshaven - room PH18B 1.18 (first floor)
Porcelænshaven 18B
2000 Frederiksberg

Philosophy of Science and Epistemological Methods in Business, Management and Organization Studies - 3 ECTS Cancelled

Course coordinators: Johan Gersel and Morten S. Thaning, Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)


Associate Professor Morten S. Thaning
Department of Business Humanities and Law, CBS

Postdoc Johan Gersel
Department of Business Humanities and Law, CBS


For whom is this course valuable? For PhD-students who want to strengthen their methodological foundation and research design. The course will improve the students’ capacity to handle theoretical complex and analytical problems while strengthening their writing skills.  The course pedagogy combines extensive discussion of fundamental methodological and epistemic issues with feedback sessions that helps to integrate the course learnings into the PhD-articles of the participants. The course discusses foundational questions of relevance for PhD-projects with both qualitive and quantitative methodologies.

Aim of the course

What is the structure and purpose of the argument? What qualifies as a research question? How do you justify a epistemic sound and valid analysis? Based on which theoretical criteria of quality? You are likely to have encountered these questions when receiving feedback on your research from colleagues, or perhaps from a peer review process when trying to get your article published.  
All such questions relate to philosophical reflections on criteria of quality and the epistemological assumptions underlying your analysis. While this course provides you with an overview of different epistemological positions and their relationship to quality and normative criteria for theoretical and empirical analysis, the main focus is on the students ability to enhance their publication skills and contextualize their research in a broader framework relevant to their PhD dissertation. The course combines the reading of programmatic texts that develop criteria for “good” analysis with an application of actual article reviews. The purpose is to solidify students’ ability to argue for, discuss, and practice consistent and reflexive criteria of quality when developing their research design and dissertation framework. The course complements existing methods courses and assumes that students are familiar with the basics of qualitative and quantitative methods and moves from there into a deeper and more critical and reflexive practice of analysis that can properly handle theoretical and analytical complexity.
The main objective of the course is to assist the participants in diagnosing and addressing the epistemic challenges of their research project in order to develop their journal article drafts. The challenge of developing scientific research, and take the criteria of specific research traditions into account while at the same time maintaining a focus on the overall focus of the PhD dissertation, becomes more and more important in the current academic landscape. We will address this challenge throughout the course both in relation to the paradigmatic epistemological perspectives presented, but also in relation to the concrete research projects of the participants. In this way, the course aims to qualify reflection on how academic research can and should relate to the practice and skills of writing journal articles.

Structure of the course

The course is structured in three parts (Part I-III): (I) Background readings and submission of background paper and writing sample  (II) contextual lectures and discussion of paradigmatic journal articles (III) interactive module relating to the writing sample submitted and epistemic challenges of the PhD-project.

Before the beginning of Part I of the course the students will be asked to submit:

·     A Background Essay defining their research question and epistemological position

·     A Writing Sample consisting of a specific journal article draft they plan to submit.

This material (total of 4 pages) is to be submitted a month prior to the starting date (see more information below)

From the beginning of the course the students will be working closely with their own theoretical or empirical analysis and selected texts relating to their projects. The intention is to work actively with the students’ PhD projects to guide their writing and justification of their research design. Throughout the course we will discuss selected readings and work through the papers written by the course participants to discuss questions about epistemology and decipher the analysis and argument attempted in the texts.

Part II of the course will present four key epistemological traditions:

  • Positivism and critical rationalism
  • Phenomenology and hermeneutics
  • Critical Theory
  • Social Constructionism
The second part will introduce key discussions about normative criteria for doing analysis developed on the basis of the four epistemological traditions.

The aim of Part III is to refine the epistemic tools and criteria presented in the second part of the course so as to customize the research design of the participant’s project in a coherent and valid manner. This part also presents the opportunity for participants to focus the discussion on sub-fields within business, management and organization that are of particular relevance to their research, for example, economics, finance, law, strategy or work-life studies. In Part III the students will also be given an opportunity to discuss the epistemic challenges in a plenary format to review and guide their future research.

Learning objectives

1.       Diagnose the epistemic challenges facing your specific academic inquiry and how it relates to the practice of businesses, management and organizations.
2.       Acquire an overview of the scientific traditions and methodologies by exemplifying how different criteria of quality are translated into actual theoretical or empirical analysis.
3.       Understand how the different strengths and weaknesses of the major scientific traditions and methodologies relate to different conceptions of the nature, aim and scope of human knowledge.
4.       Learn to justify the important choices in the methodological setup of your research project by combining diagnosis and refinement of relevant tools and criteria from major traditions of social science.

Relevance for the Nordic Nine (N1, N2, N6 and N8)

This course in philosophy of science develops the ability of researchers to place and justify their research in a broad historical context (N1; see Learning objectives 2 and 3). The course cultivates the academic virtues of critique, curiosity and rigor, and thereby prepares the participants to handle ambiguities and analytical complexity in their future research processes (N2; see Learning Objectives 1 and 4). In terms of the pedagogical approach, the course emphasizes openness to critique, collaboration in peer research processes as well as the value in iterative learning processes for scientific research (N6 and N8; see Learning Objectives 4).

Exam assignment

Write a max. 5 page individual essay that critically discusses the implications, limitations and consequences of the empirical analysis. The essay should address the following questions:

  1. A reflection on the epistemological point of departure for the analysis. What are the most important epistemic challenges of your project and its methodology in its current form?
  2. An identification of the criteria of quality guiding the analysis. What aspects of the academic traditions and methodologies discussed in the course can be used to overcome the epistemic challenges of your research project?
  3. Discuss the relative strength and weaknesses of the theoretical traditions and methodologies that you draw upon and relate this discussion to your project.
  4. Relate your discussion of strengths and weaknesses to relevant conceptions of the nature, aim, and scope of human knowledge. What is your view on the nature, aim, and scope of the knowledge you produce, i.e. the researcher position taken in the essay and the implication this position has for the outcome of the analysis?
  5. Explain and exemplify how the same case material could have been analyzed differently based on a different understanding of reality. Justify the epistemological choices underpinning your research design.
Participants should be present at all sessions as well as obtain a passing grade at the exam in order to pass the course. Students will have the opportunity to receive personal feedback on the exam paper.

Pre-course Assignment

Before the beginning of the course every participant is asked two assignments, a Background Essay and a Writing Sample (total of 4 pages)

The Background Essay should address the following three questions (1-2 pages):

  1. What is the theme or object of your research project?
  2. What are the most important theories of your research project and why are these theories relevant?
  3. Describe the most important epistemic challenges of the project and its methodology in its current form? (e.g., What type of knowledge do you seek to produce? What is the nature of your empirical material? What are the challenges in accessing and interpreting the empirical material?)

The Writing Sample (2-3 pages)

  • A sample from an article (in preparation) related to the epistemic challenges mentioned above.

The papers should be submitted in the Assignments section of Canvas. The submission deadline is one month before the starting date.

 Course Plan

The course is taught in 6 sessions of each 3.5 hours (e.g., three days from 9.00-16.00). 

Part I (first day)

Session 1: Diagnosing epistemic challenges in your PhD research

The first session will facilitate group discussions of the Background Essays and Writing Sample. The aim is to diagnose the epistemic challenges facing each participant’s publication plans. This diagnosis will function as a guiding thread for the rest of the course and the diagnosis will be continuously developed and sharpened in this process.

Session 2: Criteria of quality in academic business research 

This seminar will provide the theoretical grounding. The participants will be given an advanced introduction to the main traditions within theories of social sciences and their contemporary relevance for business, management and organization studies.


Part 2 (second day)

Session 3: Epistemological positions 1

This session and the next introduce the students to Positivism, Critical rationalism, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Critical Theory, and Social constructionism. A selection of secondary literature will provide an overview of the traditions discussed. One short, classical text by one of the main exponents of each tradition will also be discussed.

Session 4: Epistemological positions 2

See the description of session 3.


Part 3 (third day)

Session 5: Article reviews and peer presentations

Based on the discussions in the overview sessions the participants will be divided into smaller groups (typically 3-4 persons) based on their research topic. The participants will be asked to work through drafts written by other course participants to discuss questions about epistemology, decipher the argument attempted in the texts and reflect on the criteria of quality. In this way the students will be asked to present and justify their research design to one another according to the criteria of quality discussed in the previous part of the course. Towards the end of this session the participants will have developed stronger writing and publication skills. 

Session 6: Common epistemic challenges and feedback

The discussion of the selected readings aims to refine and sharpen the diagnosis of the epistemic challenges of the participant’s research project, and to understand its underlying epistemological assumptions. Similarly, in this seminar, we will sum up the conclusions from the peer session in order to refine and develop the academically grounded methodologies and to articulate a more coherent and valid justification for the methods used in the participant’s research project. After this session, the participants will achieve a clear sense of direction in their research having developed a strong and solid academic research design for their PhD project.



Class lectures

21 Hours

Class preparation including homework assignments

51 Hours

Exam preparation

12 Hours


84 Hours

*1 ECTS = 28 hrs


List of readings

(preliminary; see Canvas at beginning of semester for finalized list)

The readings for the overview seminars are divided into two categories.

PositionThese readings provide an overview of the position and its core assumptions, often as formulated by one or more of its main representatives.

ApplicationThese reading exemplify an article review process to be analyzed in the course. 

Session 1+2: Diagnosing epistemic challenges in research

Read all Background Essays and Writing Samples (available on CANVAS)

Alvesson, Mats and Sköldberg, Kaj. 2000. Reflexive Methodology – new vistas for qualitative research. London: Sage.

Seale, Clive. 1999. The Quality of Qualitative Research. London: Sage. Chapter 1: Why Quality Matters. Chapter 3: Trust, Truth and Philosophy. Chapter 5: Guiding Ideals.

Gersel, Johan and Thaning, Morten S. 2020. The plight to choose. Journal of Management Education, Vol. 44, No. 5, 10: 663-676.

Session 2-4: Epistemological positions

Heidegger, Martin. [1927] 1993. Being and Time. (excerpt)

Titchen, Angie ad Hobson, Dawn. 2005 Phenomenology. In: Research methods in the social sciences. Sage

Anderson, Elizabeth. 2020 [2000]. Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (free internet resource).

Watts, Lynelle and Hodgson, David 2019. Critical Social Science and Critical Theory. In: Social justice theory and practice for social work.

Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs and Women – the reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge. (excerpt: Chapter 9: Situated Knowledges p. 150-183).

Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve. 1986. Laboratory Life – The construction of scientific facts. Princeton University Press. (excerpt).

Knorr Cetina, Karin D. (1999), Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge, Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press.

Session 5-6: Peer Session and Common Epistemic Challenges and Individual supervision

Read all Background Essays and Writing Samples  (available on CANVAS)

Registration deadline and conditions

The registration deadline is 6 May 2024. If you want to cancel your registration on the course it should be done prior to this mentioned date. By this date we determine whether we have enough registrations to run the course, or who should be offered a seat if we have received too many registrations.

If there are more seats available on the course we leave the registration open by setting a new regsitration deadline in order to fill remaining seats. Once you have received our acceptance/welcome letter to join the course, your registration is binding and we do not refund your course fee. The binding registration date will be the registration deadline mentioned above.

Payment methods
Make sure you choose the correct method of payment upon finalizing your registration:
CBS students:
Choose payment method CBS PhD students and the course fee will be deducted from your PhD course budget.
Students from other Danish universities: 
Choose payment method Danish Electronic Invoice (EAN). Fill in your EAN number, attention and possible purchase (project) order number.
Do you not pay by EAN number please choose Invoice to pay via electronic bank payment (+71). 
Students from foreign universities:
Choose payment method Payment Card. Are you not able to pay by credit card please choose Invoice International to pay via bank transfer. 

Event Location

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Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475

Organizer Contact Information

CBS PhD School
Nina Iversen

Phone: +45 3815 2475