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The Rigour Relevance Gap Essay

1435 words - 6 pages


An ongoing discussion within the field of management research is the rigour-relevance gap. This gap can be described as the lack of connection between rigourous scientific research to relevant managerial practice. I.e. scientific research is expected to be rigourous with references, theories and models based on logical arguments or empirical analysis, while managerial practice searches for relevant, applicable theories and models.

Different aspects of the rigour-relevance gap are subject to the discussion: (1) the relevance of the gap itself (BRON), (2) the need for bridging the gap (BRON) and (3) potential solutions in order to bridge the gap. (BRON) Most researchers agree on the existence of the gap (Kieser & Leiner, 2009; Tranfield & Starkey, 1998), but they do not all assume bridging the gap as possible and desirable. Kieser & Leiner (2009) for example, refute the possibility of developing a bridge between scientific research and managerial practice. They argue that both fields are surrounded by different systems, which cannot be directly linked to each other. Another argument against bridging the gap is about undesirability to do so. Objectivity is an important aspect of academic research, as stated by Kimberley (Walsh et al., 2007).

However, other researchers argue that the gap of rigour and relevance is bridgeable. Different approaches of creating such a bridge are explored within academic research. On one hand, academics suggest that collaboration with stakeholders will contribute to the applicability of research to managerial practice (Tranfield & Starkey, 1998; Tushman, M.L., O'Reilly, C.A., Fenollosa, A., Kleinbaum, A.M. & McGrath, D., 2007). Collaboration with stakeholders can be incorporated by taking advantage of interdisciplinairy research methods (Tranfield & Starkey, 1998) and/or by providing executive education (Tushman et al., 2007).

On the other hand, researchers suggest a solution based on the provision of scientific theory. Suggestions are made in terms of combining descriptive theory with prescriptive theory might minimalize the gap between rigour and relevance (Van Aken, 2004) and providing a language of concepts and symbols, rather than tools or instruments (Astley & Zammuto, 1992).

This paper examines the bridgeability of the rigour-relevance gap within the field of management research by outlining four main perspectives. Two perspectives which claim the bridgeability of the gap will be discussed, followed by two perspectives which assert either impossibility and undesirabilty of bridging the gap. Rather than just describing various perspectives on the topic, the perspectives are integratively discussed in the final section. This section also argues an extent of bridgeability of the rigour-relevance gap within the field of management research.

Bridging the gap by providing useful theory
As some researchers state, the rigour-relevance gap is bridgeable by providing useful...

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