Sub-theme 12: [SWG] Institutions, Innovation, Impact: How to Conduct Institutional Research that Really Matters

Tim R. Hannigan
University of Alberta, Canada
Dennis Jancsary
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Tammar B. Zilber
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Call for Papers

That theory and methodology are interconnected is well accepted in organization theory (Cornelissen, 2017; Delbridge & Fiss, 2013; Van Maanen et al., 2007). Yet, as methodology is part of the institution of science, and thus mainly taken-for-granted, most of us leave its explicit discussion behind as we graduate and start our academic career. We build on our training and become more sophisticated in using the tools we have learned – yet rarely reflect on the fundamental premises of the paradigm(s) within which we were trained, or substantially expand our tool kit. This is regretful for at least three main reasons:

  • First, all methods have limitations and can capture only some parts of the phenomena we are interested in (Meyer et al., 2005).
  • Moreover, as methodologies get reified as practices in iconic articles at top-level journals, this opens up a paradox; on the one hand, methods get legitimated and help with the vagaries of the publishing process, on other they become conventionalized and promote a potentially narrow form of building theory.
  • Finally, because all methodologies carry with them epistemological and theoretical assumptions, neglecting a reflexive discussion of theory and method risks mistaking progress in theory-building in the field with members becoming professional cultural dopes (Garfinkel, 1967).

Therefore, it is imperative that we engage in a discussion of theory-method packages; that is, in better understanding the relationship between our tools and our theoretical contributions, to see how methods enable and restrict the questions we are likely to ask and the answers we are likely to perceive as salient. This also compels us to consider the contingencies of theory, method, and how they co-constitute our institutional arenas (Lounsbury & Wang, 2020). To be able to find the right theory-method fit, we need to expand our methodological horizons, and this in turn may open up novel affordances for theorizing (Gehman et al., 2018).
We wish to use this last sub-theme of the EGOS Standing Group Group (SWG) 12 on “Institutions, Innovation, Impact: How Institutional Theory Matters” to create a space for the discussion of methodology, innovation, and impact in the context of institutional analysis. Our conversation will focus on two main issues.
First, we will ponder the role of methodology in the central tensions, or lacunae, in the study of institutions (Schneiberg & Clemens, 2006; Zilber, 2020). For example, a consistent critique against institutional theory is its cognitive focus, overshadowing other elements of institutional ‘packages’ (e.g., Meyer et al., 2018), such as emotions (Zietsma et al., 2019) and practices (Smets et al., 2017). What role do research methods play in this imbalance? It may be, for example, that collecting and analyzing textual data is easier than observing practices. This may explain the prevalence of textual data and the relative absence of observational data in the study of meaning(s). Even when scholars use ethnography, more often than not, their focus is on discourse rather than the practices that (re-)produce it (Leibel et al., 2018). Likewise, more often than not, texts are presented as formalized artifacts anchoring truth claims in organizations, instead of as artifacts, that – along with other forms of archival data (Ventresca & Mohr, 2002) – researchers can use in a cartographic approach (Hannigan, Pak, & Jennings, 2022) to analyzing process data (Langley, 1999). Many lament the treatment of power (or lack thereof) in institutional theory (Lawrence, 2008; Munir, 2020). Can it be that methodology is partly to blame for our failure to account for systemic power more fully? Likewise, what is the role of methodology in our tendency to highlight heroic, entrepreneurial action over mundane everyday activities and their impact on the social order (Zilber, 2020)? By discussing the methodological preferences in the study of institutions, and their affordances, we will open a space to rethink methodology and philosophies of science.
Second, we will discuss the variety of paradigmatic approaches, and related innovative research methods as well as their potential to take institutional theory in novel directions and arenas – including a better connection with people’s experiences within various institutional domains (impact). These include, among others, machine-learning and AI-aided methodologies (Drori et al., 2019; Gehman & Grimes, 2016), visual and multimodal methodologies (Boxenbaum et al., 2018; Jancsary et al., 2016, Höllerer et al., 2019), and applications of mixed-methods such as in framing analysis combined with correspondence analysis (e.g., Meyer & Höllerer, 2010), semantic network analysis (e.g., Jancsary et al., 2017), topic modeling (e.g., Hannigan et al., 2019), and the integration of topic modelling into more traditional forms of critical discourse analysis (Aranda et al., 2021).
We invite review, meta-methodological, theoretical and empirical papers that touch upon the interrelations between the methods we use and the imageries of institutions and their impact we offer. Empirical work based on innovative methods, or that harnesses novel methods to further the impact of scholarly work, will be especially welcome. Potential contributions may include – but are by no means limited to – the following topic areas:

  • Neglected aspects of institutions. Since methods are ‘windows’ into the social world, they are inherently selective in what they reveal. We invite manuscripts that discuss how existing methodologies narrow our perspectives, or that illustrate how less established methodologies open novel windows into the realm of institutions.

  • Multi-method and mixed-method designs. In addition to methodological innovation, the combination of existing methodologies is another way of overcoming methodological limitations. However, despite obvious benefits, the combination of multiple methodologies also poses conceptual and practical challenges. We invite contributions that discuss and/or show the pitfalls and opportunities that emerge from multi-method and mixed-method designs in the study of institutions.

  •  ‘Interfaces’ between theory, methodology, and impact. It is common knowledge that theory should inform methodology, that is, that the tools employed should fit the questions asked. However, novel developments in methodology may enable the emergence of novel questions, and therefore the extension and novel development of theory. These novel questions may further enhance the impact of research in the relevant communities. We invite manuscripts that showcase how novel directions in methodology can help us develop more robust and more relevant accounts of institutions and their dynamics.

  • Reflections on epistemology. Beyond theory-method fit, methodology (the theory of methods as a form of meta-science) is closely linked to epistemology (the theory of knowledge). Methodology sketches different paths to (scientific) knowledge, and the methods we use represent certain understandings of what constitutes ‘knowledge’. From a phenomenological perspective (Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Meyer, 2008), knowledge is the very foundation of institutions. We therefore invite reflections on whether and how the epistemologies that underlie our methods influence the way in which we conceptualize institutions as crystallizations and sedimentations of knowledge.

  • Enhancing impact. There is also a need to move institutional analysis closer to the lived experience of societal and organizational actors. This concerns both the degree to which our methods take the experiences and knowledges-in-use of practitioners seriously, and the ways in which methods produce theory that is accessible to organizational actors and correspond with their everyday problems and concerns. We invite submissions that outline ways in which methodology can support the impact and relevance of institutional analysis for organizational practice.



  • Aranda, A.M., Sele, K., Etchanchu, H., Guyt, J.Y., & Vaara, E. (2021): “From big data to rich theory: Integrating critical discourse analysis with structural topic modeling.” European Management Review, 18, 197–214.
  • Berger, P.L., & Luckmann, T. (1967): The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Anchor Books.
  • Boxenbaum, E., Jones, C., Meyer, R.E., & Svejenova, S. (2018): “Towards an articulation of the material and visual turn in organization studies.” Organization Studies, 39 (5–6), 597–616.
  • Cornelissen, J.P. (2017): “Preserving theoretical divergence in management research: Why the explanatory potential of qualitative research should be harnessed rather than suppressed.” Journal of Management Studies, 54 (3), 368–383.
  • Delbridge, R. & Fiss, P.C. (2013): “Editors' comments: Styles of theorizing and the social organization of knowledge.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (3), 325–331.
  • Drori, G.S., Walgenbach, P., & Höllerer, M.A. (2019): “Organizational institutionalism: Analysis across levels and domains.” Working paper.
  • Garfinkel, H. (1967): Studies in Ethnomethodology. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.
  • Gehman, J., & Grimes, M. (2016): “Hidden badge of honor: How contextual distinctiveness affects category promotion among certified B corporations.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (6), 2294–2320.
  • Gehman, J., Glaser, V.L., Eisenhardt, K.M., Gioia, D.A., Langley, A., & Corley, K.G. (2018): “Finding Theory-Method Fit: A Comparison of Three Qualitative Approaches to Theory Building.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 27 (3), 284–300.
  • Hannigan, T.R., Haans, R.F.J., Vakili, K., Tchalian, H., Glaser, V.L., Wang, M., Kaplan, S., & Jennings, P.D. (2019): “Topic modeling in management research: Rendering new theory from textual data.” Academy of Management Annals, 13 (2), 586–632.
  • Hannigan, T.R., Pak, Y., Jennings, P.D. (2022): “Mapping the Multiverse: A Cultural Cartographic Approach to Realizing Entrepreneurial Possibilities.” In: C. Lockwood & J.-F. Soublière (eds.): Advances in Cultural Entrepreneurship. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 80. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, 217–237.
  • Höllerer, M.A., Van Leeuwen, T., Jancsary, D., Meyer, R.E., Andersen, T.H., & Vaara, E. (2019): Visual and Multimodal Research in Organization and Management Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Jancsary, D., Höllerer, M.A., & Meyer, R.E. (2016): “Critical analysis of visual and multimodal texts.” In: R. Wodak & M. Meyer (eds.): Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. London: SAGE Publications, 180–204.
  • Jancsary, D., Meyer, R.E., Höllerer, M.A., & Barberio, V. (2017): “Towards a structural model of organizational-level institutional pluralism and logic interconnectedness.” Organization Science, 28 (6), 1150–1167.
  • Lounsbury, M., & Wang, M. (2020): “Into the clearing: Back to the future of constitutive institutional analysis.” Organization Theory, 1 (1), 1–27.
  • Lawrence, T.B. (2008): “Power, institutions and organizations.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin-Andersson & R. Suddaby (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, 170–197.
  • Leibel, E., Hallett, T., & Bechky, B.A. (2018): “Meaning at the source: The dynamics of field formation in institutional research.” Academy of Management Annals, 12 (1), 154–177.
  • Meyer, A.D., Gaba, V., & Colwell, K.A. (2005): “Organizing far from equilibrium: Nonlinear changes in organizational fields.” Organization Science, 16 (5), 456–473.
  • Meyer, R.E. (2008): “New sociology of knowledge: Historical legacy and contributions to current debates in institutional research.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin-Andersson & R. Suddaby (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, 519–538.
  • Meyer, R.E., & Höllerer, M.A. (2010): “Meaning structures in a contested issue field: A topographic map of shareholder value in Austria.” Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1241–1262.
  • Meyer, R.E., Jancsary, D., Höllerer, M.A., & Boxenbaum, E. (2018): “The role of verbal and visual text in the process of institutionalization.” Academy of Management Review, 43 (3), 392–418.
  • Munir, K.A. (2020): “Challenging institutional theory’s critical credentials.” Organization Theory, 1 (1), 1–10.
  • Schneiberg, M., & Clemens, E.S. (2006): “The typical tools for the job: Research strategies in institutional analysis.” Sociological Theory, 24 (3), 195–227.
  • Smets, M., Aristidou, A., & Whittington, R. (2017): “Towards a practice-driven institutionalism.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T.B. Lawrence & R.E. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, 365–389.
  • Van Maanen, J., Sørensen, J.B., & Mitchell, T.R. (2007): “The interplay between theory and method.” Academy of Management Review, 32 (4), 1145–1154.
  • Ventresca, M.J., & Mohr, J.W. (2002): “Archival research methods.” In: J.A.C. Baum (ed.): The Blackwell Companion to Organizations. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 805–828.
  • Zietsma, C., Toubiana, M., Voronov, M., & Roberts, A. (2019): Emotions in Organization Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zilber, T.B. (2020): “The methodology/theory interface: Ethnography and the microfoundations of institutions.” Organization Theory, 1 (2), 1–27.
Tim R. Hannigan is an Assistant Professor of Organization Theory and Entrepreneurship at the School of Business, University of Alberta, Canada, and the co-coordinator of the Interpretive Data Science (IDeaS) group. His research is oriented around the early moments of markets, fields, entrepreneurial ecosystems, blockchain entrepreneurship, and organizational wrongdoing. Using mixed methods – including topic modeling, network analysis, and qualitative interpretive analysis –, Tim focuses on the co-constitution of meanings and social structure in the emergence of cultural and institutional phenomena.
Dennis Jancsary is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Organization Studies at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. His current research focuses on institutionalist approaches in organization theory, particularly the diffusion and theorization of management ideas, practices, and structures. Conceptually and methodologically, he is primarily interested in verbal, visual, and multimodal forms of rhetoric, narrative, and symbolism, as well as in the role of silences in the construction and institutionalization of meaning. He serves on the editorial review boards of ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Organization Theory’, and ‘M@nagement’.
Tammar B. Zilber is Professor in the Business School at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. She is interested in how organizations operate in light of their embeddedness within shared meaning systems (institutions), and how people negotiate these meanings on the ground, as part of their daily work – or as they strive to create, maintain, and change institutions. Using qualitative methods (like ethnography and narrative analysis), Tammar highlights the role of meanings, emotions, and power relations in institutionalization processes.