Replication and Generalizability in Interorganizational Network Research

Lori Rosenkopf, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: Questions and concerns about the replicability and generalizability of social science research are prominent today, and the management field is just starting to grapple with these issues. Most of our research findings are quite context-specific, and a recent SMJ special issue highlighted the importance of “quasi-replication” across populations and methods as an important approach for building knowledge in the field of strategy. I would further argue that quasi-replication tests the limits of generalizability, much in the spirit of developing “middle-range theory.” To take a well-known example, studies of IPO characteristics in hot market contexts recognize the limited generalizability of their results, and researchers do not expect similar findings in cooler markets. But what about alliance activity? Would phenomena like alliance formation rates, partner selection, and overall alliance structures replicate when observed across particular industries or timeframes? What technological characteristics might explain differences? An understanding of these issues is critical in developing effective strategies for innovating.