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Philosophy of Science and Epistemological Methods in Business, Management and Organization Studies - 5 ECTS Cancelled

Date and time

Monday 17 April 2023 at 09:00 to Friday 21 April 2023 at 16:00

Registration Deadline

Wednesday 8 March 2023 at 00:00


Kilen - room KL1.43 (first floor), Kilevej 14A, 2000 Frederiksberg Kilen - room KL1.43 (first floor)
Kilevej 14A
2000 Frederiksberg

Philosophy of Science and Epistemological Methods in Business, Management and Organization Studies - 5 ECTS Cancelled

Course coordinators: Ann-Christina Lange and Morten S. Thaning, Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)


Associate Professor Ann-Christina Lange
Department of Business Humanities and Law, CBS

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


Before the beginning of the course every participant is asked to hand-in a short 3 page essay.

Before the first session an Introductory Essay should address the following three questions:

  • What is the theme or object of your research project?
  • What are the most important theories of your research project and why are these theories relevant?
  • 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 last page should be a selected writing sample from the thesis 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.

For whom is this course valuable? For PhD-students who want to strengthen their methodological foundation and research design, and who seek to improve their capacity to handle theoretical complexity and analytical ambiguity.  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-projects of the participants. The course discusses foundational questions of relevance for PhD-projects with both qualitive and quantitative methodologies.

Integration of Nordic Nine
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 Objective 1). 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 and 5).

Course content

This course gives an overview of different epistemological positions and their relationship to quality and normative criteria for theoretical and empirical analysis within business, management and organization studies.  The course combines the reading of programmatic texts that suggest criteria for “good” analysis with a close reading of actual theoretical and empirical studies. The purpose is to solidify the students’ ability to argue for, discuss, and practice consistent and reflexive criteria of quality when developing their research design. The course complements existing methods courses and assumes that the 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 ambiguity and analytical complexity.

The main objective of the course is to assist the participants in diagnosing the epistemic challenges of their particular research project and introduce them to the idea of criteria of quality for social science research. Throughout the course, we will also introduce the discussion of the particular nature of business, management and organization as a specific field of scientific inquiry. Traditionally, the study of business, management and organization has been closely connected with the challenges of planning and decision-making if not specifically focused on the optimization of economic efficiency. While this focus has long been significantly broadened and contested within a number of research traditions, the challenge of connecting scientific research to practice, in particular the practice of making decisions, imposes itself more directly, within the field of business, organization and management, than in perhaps any other of the social sciences. We will pursue 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 scientific research can and should relate to the practice and problems of businesses, managers and organizations.

In order to deliver on this ambition, the course is structured in three main steps:
(1) Background readings and paper submission (+ writing sample),
(2) theoretical and contextual lectures and
(3) interactive course participation relating to the writing sample submitted.   
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 in order to guide their writing and justification of their research design. As part of the first step of the course the students will be asked to submit a background paper and draft writing sample defining their research question, epistemological position and a specific methodological problem to be addressed in the course. This is to be submitted a month prior to the starting date.  

Throughout the course we will discuss selected readings and work through the papers written by the course participants to discuss questions about epistemology, decipher the analytical move attempted in the texts and reflect on the criteria of quality.

The second part of the course  will present four key epistemological perspectives:
Phenomenology/Hermeneutics, Critical Theory, Social Constructivism and Transcendental Empiricism. It will also introduce key discussions about normative criteria for doing analysis: How are notions of “quality” tied up with the object of study, the position of the researcher, the implicit comparisons that drive analysis, the degree of iteration between theory and data etc. Based on these different ways of relating to the field of study and establishing criteria of quality,  the course combines these lectures with the background readings and focuses on discussions of actual empirical analyses, primarily from organization theory. Here, the students are expected to analyse the way in which the writers engage with the field of business, management organization studies, and how they position themselves as researchers. What kind of analytical “moves” can be identified in each of the texts and what normative criteria for analysis are implied?

The aim of the third part 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, strategy or work-life studies.
In the final part (last day)  the students will be given an opportunity to discuss the epistemic challenges in a plenary format to review and guide their future research.

Altogether, the course serves as a thorough preparation for doing the kind of theoretical design or empirical analysis that will be expected of the students in the PhD thesis.

The course is designed in a flexible manner able to accommodate the specific needs of the participating students. The course therefore serves as an add on to the supervision process. 

Teaching style

Pedagogic format with extensive group discussion as well as extensive feedback.

Lecture plan

The course is taught in 10  sessions over 5 days from 9.00-16.00.
Day 1
Session 1: introduction
Session 2: Overview seminar – phenomenology and hermeneutics

Day 2
Session 3: Peer seminar – phenomenology and hermeneutics
Session 4: Overview seminar – Critical theory

Day 3
Session 5: Peer seminar – Critical theory
Session 6: Overview Seminar – Social constructivism

Day 4
Session 7: Peer seminar – Social constructivism
Session 8. Overview seminar: Transcendental empiricism

Day 5
Session 9. Peer seminar – Transcendental empiricism
Session 10. Common epistemic challenges and supervision

Session 1: Diagnosing epistemic challenges in research

The first session will facilitate group discussions of the Introductory Essays. The aim is to articulate diagnose of the epistemic challenges facing each participant’s research project. This diagnose will function as guiding thread for the rest of the course and the diagnose will be continuously developed and sharpened in this process. This session will also give a historical introduction to the different epistemological approaches presented in the course, including positivism and critical rationalism.  
Session 2, 4, 6 and 8: Overview Seminars - Tools for Addressing Epistemic Challenges in Research

The Overview Seminars will provide an advanced introduction to the main traditions within theories of science and their contemporary relevance for business, management and organization studies. This element introduces the students to Phenomenology/Hermeneutics, Critical Theory, Social constructivism and Transcendental Empiricism. 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. In addition, a series of online videos that relates the main traditions to contemporary discussions in management and organization theory will be made available prior to the relevant sessions.
Session 3, 5, 7 and 9:  Peer seminars – Selected Readings, Discussion of Drafts and Refinement of Tools

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. Here aspects of selected traditions and methodologies, that are particularly relevant for the projects in that specific group will be discussed.
The format of these seminars will be group discussions combined with short presentations by the teachers of the course, as well as by the students. The participants will be asked to work through drafts written by other course participants to discuss questions about epistemology, decipher the analytical move 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.
The discussion of the selected readings aims to refine and sharpen the diagnose of the epistemic challenges of the participants research project, and to understand its underlying assumptions. Similarly, in the seminars we will try to refine and develop the scientific methodologies to articulate a more coherent and valid justification for the methods used in the participants research project.
Session 10: Common Epistemic Challenges and Individual supervision

In this session the criteria of quality represented in the different epistemological perspectives will be put into dialogue and challenge one another to ‘test’ the students chosen methodologies/research design.
Finally, we will provide the opportunity for short individual supervision sessions that kicks of the exam assignment.
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 that have been developed as tools to overcome typical epistemic challenges in contemporary social science by exemplifying how different criteria of quality are translated into actual theoretical or empirical analysis.

  3. Learn to appreciate the relative strength and weaknesses of the major scientific traditions and methodologies.

  4. 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. Hereunder, to explain the nature of the iterative process between theoretical framework and empirical data in an analysis.

  5. 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.

Write a max. 5 page individual essay that critically discuss 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 scientific 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 scientific 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 quality. Justify the epistemological choices underpinning your research design.

Participants should be present at all sessions in order to pass the course
Course Literature

List of readings (preliminary; see Canvas at beginning of semester for finalized list). The readings for the overview seminars are divided into three categories.

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

Application – These reading exemplify applications of the position. We have sometimes chosen examples of applications because of their pedagogical clarity or because they are extremely influential, but most of the applications have been chosen because they demonstrate the contemporary relevance of position for contemporary business, management or organization studies.
Session 1: Diagnosing epistemic challenges in research
Read all Introductory Essays (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 2-3: . Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

Heidegger, Martin. [1927] 1993. Being and Time. (excerpt)
Gadamer, Hans Georg. [1960] 2004. Truth and Method. Continuum. (excerpt)
Titchen, Angie and Hobson, Dawn. 2005 Phenomenology. In: Research methods in the social sciences. Sage
McCloskey, Deidre. 1994. Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics. Cambridge University Press. (excerpt).
Painter-Morland, Mollie and Ten Bos, Rene. 2015. Should Environmental Concern Pay Off? A Heideggerian Perspective. Organization Studies.
Session 4-5: Critical Theory

Honneth, Axel. 2005. Bisected Rationality: The Frankfurt School's Critique of Science. In Gutting, C. Continental philosophy of science.
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.
Piketty, Thomas. 2019. Capital and Ideology. Harvard university press (excerpt).
Willmott, Hugh. 2005. Organization Theory as a Critical Science? Forms of Analysis and ‘New Organizational Forms. The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory
Session 6-7: Social Constructivism

Latour, Bruno. 1989. Clothing the naked truth. In: Hilary Lawson & Lisa Appignanesi (eds.), Dismantling Truth. Weidenfeld.
Butler, Judith. 2007 [1990]. Gender Trouble. Routledge. (excerpt).
Irigaray, Luce. 2006. In science, is the subject sexed? In Gutting, C. Continental philosophy of science. John Wiley and Sons.
Chia, Robert. 2005. Organization Theory as a Postmodern Science. The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory.
Pullen, Alison and Rhodes, Carl. 2012. Parody, subversion and the politics of gender at work: the case of Futurama’s ‘Raging Bender’. Organization Studies 20 (4) 512-533.
Session 8-9: Transcendental Empiricism

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).
Mol, Annemarie (1999), 'Ontological Politics: a Word and Some Questions', pages 74-89 in John Law and John Hassard (eds), Actor Network Theory and After, Oxford and Keele: Blackwell and the Sociological Review.
Knorr Cetina, Karin D. (1999), Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge, Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press.
MacKenzie, Donald. 2008. En Engine, Not a Camera. How Financial Models Shape Markets. The MIT Press. (excerpt).
Gherardi, Silvia. 2019. Theorizing affective ethnography for organization studies. Organization 26 (6) 741-760.
Session 11 Common Epistemic Challenges and Individual supervision

This session has no readings.

Notes: In case we receive more registrations for the course than we have places the registrations will be prioritized in the following order: Students from CBS departments, students from other institutions than CBS.


Select payment methods:
CBS students: Choose CBS PhD students and the course fee will be deducted from your PhD budget.
Students from other Danish universities: Choose 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 Card. Are you not able to pay by credit card please choose Invoice International to pay via bank transfer. 
Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.

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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