Theory and Practice: Organization Science


Theory has been used in the academic field as a source of knowledge. It has also been used in the business world to inform, solve problems and to encourage the success of organizations. The application of theory is largely dependent on the available theories and thus scholars have continually provided theories as the demand increases. Moreover theory applications are dependent on the situation and require understanding of the theory.

This essay is divided into three parts. Part 1 will discuss the relationship between theory and application and explain how theory informs practice. Then it will discuss Issues involved in translating theory into practice. Part 2 of this essay will describe a theory of current interest in the topic area and discuss the current view of the theory. Part 3 will explain how the theory has been applied and critically evaluate the appropriateness of the uses to which the theory has been applied.

The relationship between theory and application

Theory has been defined as an established relationship between two or more variables. It may emanate from a series of investigations where the results are similar and therefore generalized. Research may be conducted for the purpose of generating knowledge or to test a theory like in the case of a case study. It may also be conducted to challenge the existing theory. Theory is obtained from observation and therefore can be considered for application. Theory provides explanation of a phenomenon by stating why, when and how the situation is. Besides providing an explanation, theory is important in dealing with emerging problems as pointed out by Henderikus (2010, p. 1).

Theory is designed to assist in giving information and help to solve certain problems in a particular situation. According to Harlow (2009, p. 2) theory when applied may either be challenged or be supported. This is dependent on the outcomes of the study after application of the theory. Theory can be applied in a similar situation or condition so that one can get results that are comparable with those in the theory. When theory is applied, areas that have been not been given attention are revealed and then they can be given consideration.

Harlow (2009, p. 2) also notes that for a theory to be considered generalizable, the theory must be put into practice. When practiced, the case study for instance, should yield similar observations in the application of the theory principles. This is to mean that the theory can only be applied in identical situations. Different theories can be applied in the same situation at different times to get insights into the most accurate theory that can be applied. The results from the application inform theory by adding more knowledge or emphasizing the existing knowledge. The most appropriate theory after application can then be adopted to give the desired outcome.

The application of the theory can yield results that are different from what was theorized. In this case, the theory principles will be informed by the findings from practice. Those findings from the application can be treated as additional information. In some cases, they can be treated as new information.

Lemay (2009, p. 2) argues that it is during the practice that elements that are constant and others that are varying are distinguished. This is so because as Namini et al a (2010, p. 181) points out, observations are made when the theory is tested. When tested through application the explanation about the relationship between variables becomes clear. The explanations are documented and they become theory. Henderikus (2010, p. 1) notes that this cycle of theory and application also forms hence it is continuous.

Namini et al (2010, p. 181) indicate that theory can be inappropriate when applied. They propose that the best theory is one that has been tested through application. When the theory is applied, it is possible to make conclusions on the most appropriate methods of dealing with a phenomenon. Application could therefore be considered as a way of testing the theory. After testing, the results are documented as theory and later others with similar situations can practice what is suggested in the theory. Application and theory depend on each other for information growth.

How theory informs practice

An existing theory is significant in guiding practice in a desired filed as indicated by Harlow (2009, p. 2). During the application, the theory is consulted on the selection of variables that are to be used for application. For instance, the demographic data required the area to concentrate on, the number of samples needed and the best method of collecting the data. Moreover, time is saved when theory informs those intending to apply the theory on the variables that are most important.

Theory can be consulted at any time to assist in dealing with a challenge. It forms a basis through which those in need of help can apply the theory to deal with the situation at hand. It also makes it possible for the researcher to make observations.

Prior to implementing a theory, a researcher engages in extensive literature review of the relevant theories that will be applied. The review is useful in determining the conditions required before practicing a theory. It guides the application by making it possible for the researcher to make the right observation.

Theory is publicized and is made available. It acts as a starting point for the researcher who wants to apply the principle in a particular phenomenon. During application, matters concerning the principles and interactions with other theories arise. Theory assists in predicting the outcome of application.

Theory informs practice by predicting the expected results. Henderikus (2010, p.1) says that theory is characterized by experiments. After each experiment results are recorded. The procedures of the experiment as well as the results are recorded, making it possible for the person to be able to predict. Depending on the desired outcome, organizations will apply the most appropriate theory in their situation to obtain their desired results.

Issues involved in translating theory into practice

Namini et al (2010, p. 185) in their study applied a theory so as to determine the accuracy of the theory and compare the findings. The requirements and the conditions in the theory were similar to those observed in the application. After conducting the application the results were different although they had followed the conditions on the theory accurately. Their results were partly in line with theory. They therefore suggested that further investigations be done. Assuming that Namini et al (2010, p. 196) followed the theory strictly, it may be possible that the result ended up with different results due to a bias during research process of the theory. The bias may be that of a small size of the sample. Another possibility is failure to get the required measurement during the application.

Applying a theory leads to new explanations, understanding and eventually to better and more accurate theories that can be applied with less constrains. Moreover, it stimulates other researchers to engage in research so that they can explore and come up with new findings (Namini et al 2010, p. 198).

The changes in time may have an impact on the application of the theory as mentioned by Knight & Leimer (2009, p. 128). From time to time, some elements or variables may undergo change that is associated with time and may impact the research findings. They also argue that the application of findings will lead to effectiveness if suggestions from a tested theory are applied. It will also avoid wastage of time and resources in the organization.

Translating theory into practice may involve challenges. The subject of study may not be identical to those used in theorizing due to factors such as time and location. Another conflicting issue may be the availability of information and its relevance to the situation of application. Application may require a large sample so as to obtain unbiased results or similar results.

Understanding of the theory is needed before the application of theory. The concepts and hypothesis as well as research questions can be used to understand the theory. During the application, accuracy is needed so that results that are obtained in the theory resemble those in the application (Soames, 2003).

Describing a theory of current interest in the topic area

There are different theories that Henderikus (2010, p. 4) discusses which include: functionalism, reflexivity and empiricism. Empiricism is a theory that emphasizes evidence of what the theory claims. In most cases the empirical evidence is superior to theory. Evidence is usually obtained from observations. The observations are made when the theory is implemented. Most importantly, empiricism makes it possible for one to obtain facts in a given situation and the theory. Consequently, empiricism is applied in the analysis of concepts, the findings, the methods and the procedures. Ford (2009, 101) indicates that theory that is obtained from empirical data contributes to the body of knowledge and encourage further research and testing.

The person environment fit model is a theory that intends to explain people’s behavior and their thinking habits when in an organization. It has been developed through empirical research and most researchers have used diverse elements that explain how individuals fit in an organization (Yu 2009, p. 1210). The people working in an environment are affected by their emotions at work. These theories have been obtained from empirical research. The researchers have applied the theory and have obtained more insights and engaged in further research. As a result the theory has increased in knowledge and new areas of research have emerged.

Describing a current view of the theory

Researchers engage in empirical research since it has evidence. Edwards & Billsberry (2010, p. 476) conduct an empirical investigation for a theory which investigates the person’s environment fit. They test the theory by first reviewing the existing theory then applying it in a situation. It is evident that the scope of the person fit environment model is very wide and other scholars such as Ship& Jansen (2011) and Yu (2009) have adopted a method where they relate one element of the person with one element of the environment to determine person- environment fit. This has been so due to the fact that the variables are so many and they are constantly changing.

The general assumption of the person- environment fit as discussed by Edwards & Billsberry (2010, p. 476) is that those who have stayed for a lesser time perceive that they do not belong to the organizations than those who have stayed for a longer time. What makes people develop perception on fitting in the organization is the kind of work they do, the people they work with and the general organization.

Dyck & Wong (2010, p. 8) argue that the researchers over the years have used empirical research to generate knowledge and thus the knowledge has been applicable in the relevant situations. They further argue that empirical research is also relevant in the present and can be use to inform, add to the body of knowledge and to challenge the knowledge. They argue that empiricism has enabled many scholars to come up with conclusions that are accurate and applicable in given situations.

Discussing how theory has been applied

Huang et al (2010, p. 123) use the empiricism in their reach to test and obtain results. The variables used in the study have been well discussed in their literature review and in their investigations. They come up with testable variables that are used in the study. The empirical research is conducted in a way that other researchers who would conduct an identical research will possibly obtain similar findings. In their conclusion, they make suggestions on areas that may be of interest for further research and the areas that need more investigations. This is so with other scholars who include Deter & Trevino (2010, p. 267).

Namini et al (2010, p. 181) have encouraged the use of empirical research by using it in their investigations. They recommend that the application of person- environment model can be used in predicting the behavior of study by using the principles. The principles will be applicable if the conditions of the study group go hand in hand with the principles.

The theory has also been used in understanding various aspects of human behavior in the working environment. Since human beings are complex, it may be difficult to predict their behavior and meet their demands. Consequently, making an effort to understand human behavior and the way they are affected by the variables could be of help to the organization.

Jager et al (2009, p. 93) also engage in empiricism. The presentation of their findings is an empirical analysis of their findings. In the analysis they provide categories that are well explained so as to reveal the actual implications of the research accurately. They avoid all forms of biases by using scientific methods that are reliable and relevant. They have also ensured that the research question is adequately given attention and the answers to the question discussed and explained. Moreover, they have limited the area of their topic to include the variables that have been presented in the hypothesis.

Another way in which empiricism has been applied is in the case study conducted by Erwin (2009, 29). The researcher begins by doing a review that leads him to test the theory by beginning a case study. Basing his research on theory, he investigates the theory while following empirical research methods. They use the existing theory to formulate research questions and to choose the scope of the study. The case study is investigated for specific variables that are guided by hypotheses obtained from the theory. More so choice of the research objects is determined using information from the theory. Consequently, the analysis of the observations obtained is made following the empirical research.

Walumbwa et al (2010, p. 522) in their study also follow the scientific method in their research. The context of their study was informed by research and was related to the theory being tested. The sample size was also informed by theory. The procedure was followed appropriately while following the research design. Furthermore, the measure was clear and the subject of study used a scale to give response to the researchers. After conducting the first analysis, they tested their results by adapting another method of analysis. They also tested the hypothesis to obtain relationship between the variables.

Dyck & Wong (2010, p. 8) have discussed the significance of empirical research over the years. They indicate that the scholars of different study areas have used the empirical research to arrive at reliable results that are applicable. This means that the results are obtained from a process that can be retraced and the same findings be obtained.

Critically evaluating the appropriateness of the uses to which the theory has been applied

Theory has been applied in organizations to solve problems. Theories are obtained from documented sources and applied in real situation to solve the problems. Companies that have problems invest in research to be able to change the situation. Moreover, the companies also engage in research to improve the employees’ performance and relations as well as increase the revenue for the company. In addition, research conducted by the company may lead to the development of theories that can be shared across the world by organizations to solve similar problems (Harlow 2009, p. 3).

Theory is used by many scholars to form a basis before the beginning of a study. Usually an extensive and intensive literature review is conducted before engaging in research. The researcher then uses the information to understand a phenomenon and then realizes the area that may need more research due to inadequate information. Also the researcher can get recommendation for theory on areas that have not been explored. What is more, is that theory enables the researcher make choices on the sample size, choose subjects of study and define the scope of the study. The application of a theory can be done while at the same time test it.

The success of theory is realized when the theory has been applied. Theory that has been based on scientific method is accurate and in most cases will lead to success. Problems can be solved only if the research findings are correct (Prinz, 2004). It is also important to note that the larger the number of sample size the more reliable the results are. This is because a large sample size gives more accurate results.

The application of a theory can be very challenging as discussed by Henderikus (2010, p. 3). The subjects of study and the situation may fail to be entirely identical to the previous studies that led to the formulation of the theory. In this case the variable may be affected by other variables that were not included in the previous study. Therefore the application of the theory may be affected by other factors that were not foreseen.

Application of the theory may also have problems in establishing a scope. Theory is usually an investigation on limited number of variables that are compared. Their relationship is what forms the theory. When it comes to application, maintaining the scope of study and narrowing down the study to specific variables may be challenging. This is because the scope in the application of theory, although in a controlled test or in a case study, may not be possible to restrict the observation to certain variables. This is because applications require an actual situation so that the theory is tested. The actual situation may be surrounded by other factors relating more than one variable which may increase the scope. Some important variables may end up showing insignificant results which may call for more investigations. For this reason, theory may remain to be a guideline for research and in the application of the theory and cannot be considered as solution to problem. Therefore continuous research is important so as to increase the knowledge, invent new knowledge and challenge existing knowledge. Theory can only be applied in a situation where identical conditions exist.


Theory is obtained from research and then it is applied to solve existing problems. Theory is very informative and may enable an organization to have improved relations at work, avoid unnecessary challenges and lead to the success of the organization. For this reason, the organization can devote itself to research so as to obtain research findings that will lead to the success of the company. After getting the findings from their research, the organization can share the information with other organizations which may be experiencing the same problem. The application of the theory requires understanding of the theory. Inaccurate application may yield different results. Other variables other than those stated in the theory may emerge and lead to changes in the result because it may be difficult to maintain the scope of the study. Theory is important in guiding the practice since it makes it possible to make the right choice of subjects of study among other decisions.

Empiricism is a theory that promotes the use of scientific method in theorizing. Research that follows the standards of empiricism is considered credible. Research should be testable and for a theory to remain generalizable, results of the same theory, when tested under the same conditions, must be identical. Empiricism gives results that are applicable. Theory has been applied to solve problems and increase knowledge. Empiricism does not encourage bias and the procedure when followed; make the result reliable and applicable. Moreover, it is possible to note the changes in empirical research because it has been used before and it is practiced to date. Therefore theory when applied is tested hence the result of testing the theory may yield more knowledge.

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