Primer for Experimental Methods in Organization Theory

Sheen S. Levine, Oliver Schilke, Olenka Kacperczyk, Lynne G. Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Experiments have long played a crucial role in various scientific disciplines and have been gaining ground in organization theory, where they add unique value by establishing causality and uncovering theoretical mechanisms. This essay provides an overview of the merits and procedures of the experimental methodology, with an emphasis on its application to organization theory. Drawing on the historical roots of experiments and their impact across science, we argue the method holds immense potential for furthering organization theory. We highlight key advantages of experimental methods, including high internal and construct validity, vividness in communicating findings, the capacity to examine complex and understudied phenomena, and the identification of microfoundations and theoretical mechanisms. We alleviate some concerns about external validity and offer guidance for designing and conducting sound, reproducible experimental research. Ultimately, we contend that the current experimental turn holds the potential to reorient organization theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2025
Number of pages29
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • experiment
  • mechanism
  • microfoundation
  • organization theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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