The Theory Project

For a few years I’ve been working with my phd advisor Erik Stolterman on a research project where our primary object of inquiry is theory. We’ve looked at different theories about the design process, the role/function different theories play in scholarly publications in design and hci research, and considered questions about how theories grow in different disciplines, etc. There is lots of interesting work to do!

One outcome of this project is a collection of readings that I think will be useful to anyone who wants to engage a bit more with theory as a topic of study.  Right now the collection is alphabetical by author, but I am currently working on a concept-centric organization.

Check back frequently for new additions and re-organizations of the collection. I add new material with some regularity.

  1. Abend, G. (2008). The meaning of “theory.” Sociological Theory, 26(2), 173–199.
  2. Agoston, G. A. (2013). Color theory and its application in art and design (Vol. 19). Springer.
  3. Astbury, B., & Leeuw, F. L. (2010). Unpacking black boxes: mechanisms and theory building in evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 31(3), 363–381.
  4. Avolio, B. J. (2007). Promoting more integrative strategies for leadership theory-building. American Psychologist, 62(1), 25–33.
  5. Bacharach, S. B. (1989). Organizational theories: Some criteria for evaluation. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 496–515.
  6. Bannister, F., & Connolly, R. (2015). The great theory hunt: Does e-government really have a problem? Government Information Quarterly, 32(1), 1–11.
  7. Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S., & Koefoed Hansen, L. (2015). Immodest Proposals: Research Through Design and Knowledge. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2093–2102). New York, NY, USA: ACM.
  8. Barnard, P. (1991). Bridging between basic theories and the artifacts of human-computer interaction.
  9. Barnard, P., May, J., Duke, D., & Duce, D. (2000). Systems, Interactions, and Macrotheory. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact., 7(2), 222–262.
  10. Baskerville, P. R., & Pries-Heje, P. J. (2010). Explanatory Design Theory. Business & Information Systems Engineering, 2(5), 271–282.
  11. Beck, R., Weber, S., & Gregory, R. W. (2013). Theory-generating design science research. Information Systems Frontiers, 15(4), 637–651.
  12. Becker, H. (1954). Vitalizing sociological theory. American Sociological Review, 19(4), 377–388.
  13. Bellotti, V., Shum, S. B., MacLean, A., & Hammond, N. (1995). Multidisciplinary Modelling in HCI Design…in Theory and in Practice. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 146–153). New York, NY, USA: ACM Press/Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
  14. Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research.
  15. Berger, J., Willer, D., & Zelditch, M. (2005). Theory Programs and Theoretical Problems*. Sociological Theory, 23(2), 127–155.
  16. Best, A., Stokols, D., Green, L. W., Leischow, S., Holmes, B., & Buchholz, K. (2003). An Integrative Framework for Community Partnering to Translate Theory Into Effective Health Promotion Strategy. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(2), 168–176.
  17. Blalock, H. M. (2005). Theory construction: From verbal to mathematical formulations.
  18. Blessing, L., Chakrabarti, A., & Wallace, K. (1998). An overview of descriptive studies in relation to a general design research methodology. In Designers (pp. 42–56). Springer.
  19. Bourgeois, L. J. (1979). Toward A Method Of Middle-Range Theorizing. Academy of Management Review, 4(3), 443–447.
  20. Bowers, J. (2012). The logic of annotated portfolios: communicating the value of’research through design’. In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 68–77). ACM.
  21. Brodbeck, M. (2013). Models, meaning, and theories. Decisions, Values and Groups, 1, 9–36.
  22. Brohman, M. K., Piccoli, G., Martin, P., Zulkernine, F., Parasuraman, A., & Watson, R. T. (2009). A Design Theory Approach to Building Strategic Network-Based Customer Service Systems*. Decision Sciences, 40(3), 403–430.
  23. Buckley, P. (1989). Expressing research findings to have a practical influence on design. Cognitive Ergonomics and Human Computer Interaction, 166–190.
  24. Calhoun, C. (1998). Explanation in Historical Sociology: Narrative, General Theory, and Historically Specific Theory 1. American Journal of Sociology, 104(3), 846–871.
  25. Carpiano, R. M., & Daley, D. M. (2006). A guide and glossary on postpositivist theory building for population health. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60(7), 564–570.
  26. Carroll, J. M. (2010). Conceptualizing a possible discipline of human–computer interaction. Interacting with Computers, 22(1), 3–12.
  27. Carroll, J. M. (2014). Soft Versus Hard: The Essential Tension. Human-Computer Interaction and Management Information Systems: Applications. Advances in Management Information Systems, 424.
  28. Carroll, J. M., & Campbell, R. L. (1989). Artifacts as psychological theories: The case of human-computer interaction. Behaviour & Information Technology, 8(4), 247–256.
  29. Carroll, J. M., & Kellogg, W. A. (1989). Artifact as theory-nexus: Hermeneutics meets theory-based design (Vol. 20). ACM.
  30. Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (1992). Getting Around the Task-artifact Cycle: How to Make Claims and Design by Scenario. ACM Trans. Inf. Syst., 10(2), 181–212.
  31. Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (2003). Design rationale as theory. HCI Models, Theories and Frameworks: Toward a Multidisciplinary Science, 431–461.
  32. Carroll, J. M., Singley, M. K., & Rosson, M. B. (1992). Integrating theory development with design evaluation. Behaviour & Information Technology, 11(5), 247–255.
  33. Chakrabarti, A., & Blessing, L. T. M. (Eds.). (2014). An Anthology of Theories and Models of Design. London: Springer London. Retrieved from
  34. Chinn, P. L., & Jacobs, M. K. (1978). A model for theory development in nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 1–12.
  35. Cohen, L. H., Sargent, M. M., & Sechrest, L. B. (1986). Use of psychotherapy research by professional psychologists. American Psychologist, 41(2), 198–206.
  36. Cole, S. (1994). Why Sociology Doesn’t Make Progress like the Natural Sciences. Sociological Forum, 9(2), 133–154.
  37. Colley, S. (2003). Nursing Theory: Its importance to practice. Nursing Standard, 17(46), 33–37.
  38. Collins, R. (1994). Why the social sciences won’t become high-consensus, rapid-discovery science. Sociological Forum, 9(2), 155–177.
  39. Colquitt, J. A., & Zapata-Phelan, C. P. (2007). Trends in theory building and theory testing: A five-decade study of the Academy of Management Journal. Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), 1281–1303.
  40. Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3–21.
  41. Corley, K. G., & Gioia, D. A. (2011). Building theory about theory building: what constitutes a theoretical contribution? Academy of Management Review, 36(1), 12–32.
  42. Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. Sage.
  43. Dalsgaard, P., & Dindler, C. (2014). Between theory and practice: bridging concepts in HCI research. In Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1635–1644). ACM.
  44. Davis, M. S. (1971). That’s interesting: Towards a phenomenology of sociology and a sociology of phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(4), 309.
  45. Davis, M. S. (1986). “That”s Classic!’ The Phenomenology and Rhetoric of Successful Social Theories. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 16(3), 285–301.
  46. Davison, R. M., Martinsons, M. G., & Ou, C. X. (2012). The Roles of Theory in Canonical Action Research. MIS Quarterly, 36(3), 763–786.
  47. Dix, A. (2010). Human–computer interaction: A stable discipline, a nascent science, and the growth of the long tail. Interacting with Computers, 22(1), 13–27.
  48. Donaldson, S. I., & Lipsey, M. W. (2006). Roles for theory in contemporary evaluation practice: Developing practical knowledge. The Handbook of Evaluation: Policies, Programs, and Practices, 56–75.
  49. Doty, D. H., & Glick, W. H. (1994). Typologies as a Unique Form of Theory Building: Toward Improved Understanding and Modeling. The Academy of Management Review, 19(2), 230–251.
  50. Egan, T. M. (2002). Grounded Theory Research and Theory Building. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(3), 277–295.
  51. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 25–32.
  52. Evans, J. H. (2007). Consensus and knowledge production in an academic field. Poetics, 35(1), 1–21.
  53. Fallman, D. (2007). Why research-oriented design isn’t design-oriented research: On the tensions between design and research in an implicit design discipline. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 20(3), 193–200.
  54. Fallman, D. (2008). The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design Practice, Design Studies, and Design Exploration. Design Issues, 24(3), 4–18.
  55. Fallman, D., & Stolterman, E. (2010). Establishing criteria of rigour and relevance in interaction design research. Digital Creativity, 21(4), 265–272.
  56. Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Is theory possible in social science? In Making social science matter: Why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again (pp. 25–37). Cambridge university press.
  57. Forlizzi, J. (n.d.). From design research to theory: Evidence of a maturing field.
  58. Forlizzi, J., Zimmerman, J., & Stolterman, E. (2009). From design research to theory: Evidence of a maturing field. In International Assoc. of Societies of Design Research Conference.
  59. Foucault, M. (2012). The archaeology of knowledge. Vintage.
  60. Freese, L. (1980). Formal Theorizing. Annual Review of Sociology, 6, 187–212.
  61. Friedman, K. (2003). Theory construction in design research: criteria: approaches, and methods. Design Studies, 24(6), 507–522.
  62. Friedman, K. (2005). Building theory. What, how and why. In Third International Conference on Design Research, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  63. Fulmer, I. S. (2012). Editor’s comments: The craft of writing theory articles—Variety and similarity in AMR. Academy of Management Review, 37(3), 327–331.
  64. Gallagher, P. (2004). How the metaphor of a gap between theory and practice has influenced nursing education. Nurse Education Today, 24(4), 263–268.
  65. Galle, P. (2011). Foundational and instrumental design theory. Design Issues, 27(4).
  66. Gaver, W. (2012). What should we expect from research through design? In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 937–946). ACM.
  67. George, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (2000). The role of time in theory and theory building. Journal of Management, 26(4), 657–684.
  68. Gero, J. S., & Kannengiesser, U. (2004). The situated function-behaviour-structure framework. Design Studies, 25(4), 373–391.
  69. Gero, J. S. (1990). Design prototypes: a knowledge representation schema for design. AI Magazine, 11(4), 26.
  70. Gero, J. S., & Kannengiesser, U. (2007). A function–behavior–structure ontology of processes. AI EDAM: Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis, and Manufacturing, 21(04), 379–391.
  71. Gero, J. S., & Kannengiesser, U. (2008). An ontological account of Donald Schön’s reflection in designing. International Journal of Design Sciences and Technologies, 15(2), 77–90.
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  74. Gioia, D., & Pitre, E. (1990). Multiparadigm Perspectives on Theory Building. Academy of Management Review, 15(4), 584–602.
  75. Godfrey-Smith, P. (2009). Models and fictions in science. Philosophical Studies, 143(1), 101–116.
  76. Gorard, S. (2009). Sceptical or clerical? Theory as a barrier to the combination of research methods. The Journal of Educational Enquiry, 5(1).
  77. Greenwald, A. G., Pratkanis, A. R., Leippe, M. R., & Baumgardner, M. H. (1986). Under what conditions does theory obstruct research progress? Psychological Review, 93(2), 216–229.
  78. Gregor, S. (2009). Building theory in the sciences of the artificial. In Proceedings of the 4th international conference on design science research in information systems and technology (p. 4). ACM.
  79. Gregor, S. (2010). Theorizing in the Sciences of the Artificial.
  80. Gregor, S., & Jones, D. (2007). The anatomy of a design theory. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 8(5), 312–335.
  81. Gruber, T. R. (1995). Toward principles for the design of ontologies used for knowledge sharing? International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43(5), 907–928.
  82. Grudin, J. (2005). Three Faces of Human-Computer Interaction. IEEE Ann. Hist. Comput., 27(4), 46–62.
  83. Grudin, J. (2006). Is HCI homeless?: in search of inter-disciplinary status. Interactions, 13(1), 54–59.
  84. Grudin, J. (2008). A moving target: The evolution of HCI. The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies, and Emerging Applications, 1–24.
  85. Grudin, J., & Poltrock, S. (2012). Taxonomy and theory in computer supported cooperative work. The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology, 2, 1323–1348.
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  87. Hall, T., Baddoo, N., Beecham, S., Robinson, H., & Sharp, H. (2009). A systematic review of theory use in studies investigating the motivations of software engineers. ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology (TOSEM), 18(3), 10.
  88. Halverson, C. A. (2002). Activity theory and distributed cognition: Or what does CSCW need to DO with theories? Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), 11(1-2), 243–267.
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  95. Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
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