Empirical inquiry without hypotheses: A question-driven, phenomenon-based approach to strategic management research

Melissa E. Graebner, Anne Marie Knott, Marvin B. Lieberman, Will Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Summary: Many advances in strategic management have resulted from the application of formal deductive methods, based on tests of specific hypotheses derived from theory. Nonetheless, numerous important research topics involve phenomena that are novel and/or causally complex and so resist basic hypothetico-deductive logic. As a result, many of the most important findings in strategy research have come from open-ended studies of relevant phenomena. The special issue of the SMJ on “Question-Driven and Phenomenon-Based Empirical Strategy Research” presents innovative ideas for question-driven research and expands the toolkit of research approaches. In this introduction we describe the twelve articles in the special issue, focusing on how they contribute to continued development of the question-driven approach to research in strategic management. Managerial Summary: One of the frustrations managers have with academic research is that it tends to be driven by questions that are theoretically interesting or lend themselves to clever econometrics. Accordingly, the results can lack managerial relevance. We highlight research that takes the opposite approach—identifying important business phenomena and devising empirical approaches to characterize them and derive managerial implications. In this introductory article, we briefly summarize the studies in the special issue, showing how they answer a diverse set of questions using a range of methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • empirical
  • phenomenon-based
  • question-driven

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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