Writing good theory: Issues to consider

Writing good theory: Issues to consider

The question of what constitutes (and how to write) good theory is one that has been posed over and over again. Personally, I’m hesitant towards whether or not there actually exists only one good answer to this question, and maybe that is also the reason why it is possible to find so many articles on the topic. Next week we will read and discuss one of the most recently published, “Writing good theory: Issues to consider” by Christina E. Shalley, Professor at the College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology. The paper is published in 2012 in Organizational Psychology Review.


What makes good theory is a question that has been asked and answered many times. This piece discusses why this is always an important issue to consider, and why one might decide to devote time and energy to writing conceptual analyses. This paper is primarily focused on what would be considered good theory for conceptual research and meta-analyses. In addition, different aspects to consider when judging a conceptual analysis as to whether it presents a sufficient, novel theoretical contribution are discussed. Finally, issues to take into account when striving to develop and build good theory are highlighted.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

Author biography

Christina E. Shalley is the Thomas R. Williams Wachovia Professor and ADVANCE Professor for the College of Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her PhD in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. Her current research interests include investigating the effects of various social and contextual factors in enhancing employee creativity. She has published a number of articles in such scholarly journals as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. She is Editor of the Handbook of Organizational Creativity. She has been a Guest Editor of a special issue in Academy of Management Journal. She serves on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Journal of Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Organizational Psychology Review.