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Simon’s Theory of Bounded Rationality and the Department of Defense

Simon’s Theory of Bounded Rationality and the Department of Defense


question 1
Theories play a vitally important role in guiding research and organizing and making sense of research
findings. In spite of the great importance of theory-building and theory testing within your field of
specialization, there is no generally accepted conception of what a theory is. Because your dissertation
must contribute to theory, you must have a clear understanding of the variety of conceptions of theory,
types of theories, and ways of contributing to theory and be able to justify how, exactly, your study
contributes to theory.

Part 1
Using Gelso (2006), Harlow (2009), Stam, H. (2007, 2010), Wacker (1999), and five additional peer-
reviewed articles from your specialization, discuss scholarly views on the nature and types of theory.
Compare and contrast at least three views of what constitutes a theory, including the view you will use in
Part 3 of this question. Be sure to distinguish theory from related concepts, such as hypothesis,
paradigm, model, and concept.

Question 1

Using Gelso (2006), Harlow (2009), Stam, H. (2007), 2010), Wacker (1999), and five additional
peer reviewed articles from your specialization, discuss scholarly views on the nature and types f
theory. Compare and contrast at least three views of what constitutes a theory, including the
view you will use in Part 3 of this question. Be sure to distinguish theory from related concepts,
such as hypothesis, paradigm, model, and concept.



In order to comprehend the components of a theory and how it is related to research is
without any doubts a daunting task and has undeniably become an issue of debate not only
among scholars as well as seasoned researchers rendering a considerable number of doctoral
students feel a sense of incompetence and confusion. According to Kiley (2015), comparison and
contrast of the definitions of a theory have also contributed to heightening of the difficulty and
confusion in making distinction between a theory and research. However, irrespective of the
prevailing confusion, there is a universal agreement among scholars that theory is at the center of
any research; whereas a contention is raised by other scholars that in real world theory have no
meaningful application in guiding research (Wacker, 1998). This paper evaluates the role of
theory and its imperativeness in research by exploring and identifying varied scholarly
arguments as well as views. In addition, a discussion of how research contributes to theory will
be provided in this paper alongside tangible examples theory has being contributing to research
as well as the homeland security and leadership field. Theory is undoubtedly the integral
constituent in any scholarly research mainly by providing guidelines in addition to enabling the
relationship between the two to be explored by researchers (Harlow, 2009). However, despite the
fact that the importance of theory in guiding research has been recognized, a consensus has not
yet been arrived at among scholars with regards to the specific components that constitute a

What Constitutes Theory

According to Fischer, Winter & Wortmann (2010), the word theory has been derived and
anchored in a Greek verb meaning contemplation. Irrespective of lack of consensus among
scholars in terms of the finer points concerning the definition and constituents of a theory, a

universally agreed position has been in the mainstream scholarly discussion basic constituents of
a theory by underscoring that, a theory plays a vital role in providing descriptions to a
phenomenon and the interactions of involved variables that subsequently follow as scholars and
researchers strive to predict or explain a scenario. Thus, as attempts are made to provide finer
details and clarifications with regards to theory, varied views by different scholars including
Gelso (2006), Harlow (2009) and Stam (2007, 2010) concerning the purpose of a theory and its
basic constituents, as well as the desirable characteristics of a good theory are explored.
A theory can be regarded to be a set of generalizations that have been grouped together
may be because they show significant relationship or indicate the possibility of new
observations, which have the possibility of being properly packaged or organized prior to
empirical testing to enable succinct details to be derived and allow the phenomenon of interest to
be predicted or explained (Galtung, 1985). According to Littlejohn (1989), a theory should be
considered as any attempt to provide an explanation or representation of an issue with regards to
a real world phenomenon or scenario. In addition, another argument posits that a theory is a way
in which knowledge is systematically organized to enable its actual application to provide
solution to a myriad of real life problems that continue to affect people across the world on a
day-to-day basis (Fendt & Sachs, 2008; Ng & Hase, 2008). According to Ng & Hase (2008) and
Fendt & Sachs (2008), grounded theory has for a relatively long period of time been playing an
imperative role in guiding research methodologies and qualitative approaches aimed at
developing theory in a wide range of academic fields. Gay & Weaver (2011) emphasize that
when the complexity of a theory is considered, a confusion or lack of consensus has been
dominant with regards to succinctly delineating between a theory and what it constitutes,
constructs of a theory as well as the approach to be adopted in a theorizing process. However, it


is imperative to make sure there is differentiation between a theory and its associated
terminologies including paradigms, hypotheses, concepts as well as models.
Malmi and Granlund (2009) stated that a paradigm plays an important in providing a
framework in which of worldviews as well as beliefs are represented, and it is usually used to
provide definitions of values as well as methods and/or boundaries that ought to be adhered to or
complied with in research. According to Gay & Weaver (2011), paradigms are also fundamental
in outlining the definitions of issues which are of importance or not as well as highlighting things
that are possible or not through research, an indication that they can be compared to overarching
philosophies in the presentation of an extended theoretical view of the research phenomenon
under consideration. In contrast, a hypothesis is regarded as an educated guess and its
subsequent proposition with regards to an envisaged outcome about a phenomenon on basis of
existing knowledge or observations (Fischer, Winter & Wortmann, 2010). National Academy of
Sciences (1999) provides a typical consideration of a theory and stated that it consists of
substantiated explanations that are strongly unified concerning a set of proven hypotheses. 
Furthermore, there has been a general agreement that a hypothesis must have the ability of
ensuring that a particular component of a theory is subjected to specific testing and subsequent
representation of the results, while a theory lacks this ability. According to Gelso (2006), a
theory is crucial in facilitating extensive explanation of an issue under consideration while the
focal point of a hypothesis is considerably narrow. Thus, a theory plays an imperative role in
enabling hypothesizing of a phenomenon; whereas a consideration of a hypothesis involves
delving into specific testing and explanation of a certain proposition predicted or forecasted with
regards to the issue under consideration.

On the other hand, Malmi and Granlund (2009) reiterated that a model plays an important
role in ensuring that a theory is constructed, and it is usually represented in a written form or
graphically to provide an explanation or illustration of a theory either in its entirety or partially.
Therefore, it can be clearly stated that elucidation of a theory components can not be achieved
through the model, even though it allows for an approach or method for the exploration of a
theory (Gelso, 2009; Malmi and Granlund, 2009; Burgelman, 2011). For instance, under
circumstances when the research concerned with a theory guiding a research on developing
nuclear weapons of mass destruction, it is imperative to construct a molecular model to act as a
method to be used as a guide of the research (Gelso, 2009). Throughout this kind of research the
model that is constructed to facilitate it can play a vital role in guiding the investigations of how
atoms are positions in the molecules as well as their subsequent interactions; however, when a
model is singly used it becomes highly difficult to provide explanations of the positioning as
well as interactions of atom in the molecules (Malmi and Granlund, 2009).
According to Geslo (2009), a theoretical concept provides the fundamental building
block which forms the basis on which the theory is constructed. Furthermore, Malmi and
Granlund (2009) emphasize that a concept is a vital strategy in which explanations of the
descriptions and/or interpretations of the data collected during a research, as well as providing
literally comparing issues or things under which the research is based or evaluations the
subsequent interactions of these issues or things.  For example, when education is considered as
the concept providing an overall description of an individual’s learning process. Gelso (2006)
also reiterates that concepts are undoubtedly the broad ideas which have been subjected to testing
within a theoretical framework to enable development of a new theory, especially on basis of
newly developed or an existing conceptual framework.

Nevertheless, as we strive to provide an answer to the question concerning what
constitutes a theory, it imperative to note that considerations are not straightforwardly or simply
presented depending on various views or arguments propagated by various scholars (Gelso,
2006; Harlow, 2009). This is attributable to the fact that, different scholars have over time held
or proposed varied views with regards to the actual components that should be considered in the
definition of a theory, especially in cases where the constituents of a theory are discussed in
more details. According to Gelso (2008), it is always imperative when providing descriptions for
a theory to consider various combinations in terms of different constructs such as descriptive
ability, explanatory power, heuristic value, testability, integration, parsimony,
comprehensiveness, delimitation, as well as clarity. Geslo (2008) in his assertions underscore his
believe in undertaking refinement of the actual description of a theory by carrying out further
research and ensuring that the constructs are succinctly understood (Gelso, 2008). On the other
hand, Harlow (2009) suggested a contrasting approach whereby a theory can be applied in the
determination of a law as well as a set of laws. Harlow (2009) used this basis to provide four
constructs of theories which are distinct namely: (a) definition of the theory, (b) the relationship
between the variables, (c) a domain within which the theory can be applied, and finally (d)
claims based on facts or predictions which are specific.
In addition, when considering the process of developing discussions with regards to
theoretical formulations, it is has been revealed that a great divide exists between the varied
views held by scholars. Stam (2007) noted that three views through which a theory is affect,
which have for a relatively long period of time significantly influenced the process of
constructing theories and they are (a) instrumentalism, : (b) reductionism, and (c) realism views.
These views are discussed in details to explicitly explain their significance.

According to Stam (2007) and Burgelman (2011) reductionism concerns the view of a
theory in which complex systems are considered as a composition of the total of respective
systems or parts of a theory. In order to understand the reductionism approach, it is important to
individually examine each part of the system singly and in an independent manner (Stam 2000;
Burgelman, 2011). As a result, reductionism plays an essential role in the attempts to ease the
approach in which complex systems can be clearly understood by independently studying
components and/or parts of a system singularly (Stam 2000; Nadler, 2004; Burgelman, 2011).
Thus, through a process in which individual components and/or parts of a system are broken
down, reductionism approach is adopted in an attempt through which its proponents envisages to
realize new perspectives through which a system can be viewed and subsequently the
interactions between its individual components and/or parts.
According to Nadler (2004), reductionism approach has been widely used making it an
inevitable method to consider because of its imperativeness in providing a framework through
which the four principles that guide its application. For instance, this approach underscores the
fact that every thing and/or system within a theory is separable into its individual components as
well as parts.  Nadler (2004) further emphasize that the reductionist approach enables an option
for substitutes or alternatives to each of the part or component of the theory which has been
separated from the respective systems, as well as partial solutions to certain problems in an
attempt to devise an appropriate method of solving the problem in its entirety.  In addition, the
consideration of entity from the perspective of a theory refers to the nothing more than the total
of a theory components or parts (Nadler, 2004). Therefore, reductionists are in the forefront in
the advocacy for the need to be singly considering each component or part of a system.

Malmi and Granlund (2009) in their instrumentalism approach of understanding a system
stated that theory instruments usefulness is inherent in the real life view or perspective towards
gaining a clear understanding of a theory in order to pinpoint the best definition of a theory
solely based on nothing more than the identified instruments. According to Malmi and Granlund
(2009), it is essential to evaluate a theory based on how it can be applied in a phenomenon
prediction as well as explanation rather than its ability to be used in depicting an actual or a real
world situation.  A good example for consideration may include an acupuncture examination,
where a number of people may possibly end up swearing as a result of the effects of acupuncture
while in real life they may not be in concurrence with principles expressed in such an art,
including the Ki energy. This means that instrumentalists have a higher likelihood of holding the
opinion that, it does not manner how a system works as long as it is working properly.
Stam (2007) also provided the realism approach, which over the recent past has
significantly expanded to become very wide and influential in the process of developing a
theory. This approach is the most recent and without any doubt the most complex to easily
decipher since realists are for the opinion that the world descriptions can be possibly done
primarily on basis of scientific concepts taking into consideration the assumptions that the world
has a real perspective and/or view, which distinctly or independently exist in absolute disregard
of the perceptions inherent in people. As a result, it is a common trend for realists to hold
assertions that someone has the possibility of making reliable as well as credible predictions
phenomena which are not observable (Klaes and Sent, 2005). For instance, a good example on
which realism approach in actual application concerns the heliocentric theory of Copernicus in
which he proposed that the Earth revolved around the sun located at the center of the solar
system despite the fact that by then it wasn’t possible to observe, test and verify or validate the

phenomenon using the tools used nowadays such as telescopes. This approach indicates that
both theory and research are intertwined and must coexist together in order to make it important
to explain how the two are related as well as the contribution of research to theory and how the
latter influences the former.
Relationship between Research and Theory and How Research Contributes to Theory
According to Ellis & Levy (2008), a theory that has been constructed and widely
accepted by a considerable number of scholars in many fields should fulfill the main purpose of
both predicting and elucidating a phenomenon. Harlow (2009) emphasize that a theory should be
used in the conceptualization and succinctly explaining a trend of observations that occurs in a
systematic manner with regards to certain phenomena as well as the subsequent interactions
which may sometimes be complex. Ellis & Levy (2008) note that research usually acts as the
foundation on which the processes that are integral in the system occur thereby informing the
data collection and analysis is conducted to aid generation of new knowledge. According to
Harlow (2009), the reductionism approach of the interplay between theory and research is
fundamental in describing the relationship inherent between theory and research.
Furthermore, this approach can be expanded to cover the wider conceptualization of the
cyclical process through which it is possible to test theoretical ideas against new data as it
emerges or that which has been in existence. Consequently, a room is also provided for the ideas
to be reframed and retested in order to verify and validate the observations beyond any doubt or
uncertainty through research in order to enable confirmation of the conclusions arising from the
entire research (Harlow, 2009). This means that a universally accepted method to approach the
task of establishing this relationship is crucial. As a result, a concurrence is observed between the
ideas or arguments presented by Gay and Weaver (2011) with those raised by Harlow (2009) as

well as Ellis and Levy (2008) by asserting that there is need for increased tendency for research
knowledge to progressively contribute to the construction of new theories based on an existing
theory or by adding knowledge to an existing lexicon of facts. As a result, definition of the
problem or phenomenon under investigation should at all time act as the connecting point
between theoretical construction and research. Harlow (2009) noted that, a theory should always
be tested and retested for verification and validation through the strategy provided for in the
Since time immemorial researchers have been using two main research methods or
strategies to test and validate proposed theories, which are the qualitative as well as quantitative
research methods. Creswell (2009) noted that in empirical studies quantitative research is usually
the appropriate approach to investigate a phenomenon or an issue of interest with assistance of
the necessary mathematical and statistical techniques to aid data analysis. On the other hand,
according to Du & Kamakura (2012) qualitative research is also commonly used, especially
when conducting research in social sciences and the qualitative research strategy strives to
facilitate collection of data which is vital in enabling subsequent understanding of the
interactions observed between variables in a more succinct manner and elucidate the
complexities inherent in them. These two research strategies have been widely embraced as the
most commonly used approaches to guide research and their contribution to the design and
development as well as improvement of new and existing theories respectively has been
significantly varied, especially with regards to the data generated (Crotty, 2003).
According to Aliaga and Gunderson (2005), the choice of a research method is greatly
determined by type of data that a researcher wants to collect, whereby quantitative research
enables for the investigation of a phenomenon by allowing numerical data to be collected

subsequent to conducting the necessary statistical analysis and decipher meaningful insights
from the gathered information. According to Tsoukas and Knudsen (2002), quantitative methods
of analyzing the collected data analysis allows its conversion into measurable and quantifiable
form consequently making it easy to categorize or group the collected data in a more explicit
manner. Aliaga and Gunderson (2005) further reiterate that conceptualizing the grouping or
categorization of collected data is comparable to the way in which computing devices convert
entered data into binary constructs for quick processing and analysis. When the collected data is
organized into groups or categories, the researcher is likely to apply complex data sets as well as
simple and advance analytic techniques to analyze the data and decipher any meaningful insights
that could answer specific research questions about the phenomenon under investigation (Aliaga
& Gunderson, 2005; Gephart, 1999). Quantitative methods of conducting research have been
playing an imperative role in contributing to theory, and this nexus has been attributed to the fact
that quantitative research allows adoption of quantifiable approaches through which the collected
data can be viewed, processed, assessed, analyzed, and reported (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).  Du &
Kamakura (2012) underscore the fact that, the contribution of quantitative research strategies to
development of theory has been attributed to the virtue of being specific and measurable
subsequently enabling spotting of trends and correlations.
Alternatively, Creswell (2009) emphasized that qualitative research strategies plays a
vital role in enabling information to be gathered from subjects in order to ensure the observed
behaviors or interactions are well understood. The core question that should always be
considered when conducting qualitative research concerns how the study is to be started as
opposed to predicting the envisaged outcomes (Creswell, 2009; Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Through this approach the researcher implements the appropriate techniques to ensure the

devised questions are answered in order to succinctly understand the manner in which the
observed variables of a phenomenon under investigation relate or why they occur (Creswell,
2009). According to Doz (2011), emphasis on using qualitative research should not be
underestimated as researchers strive to obtain more insights and meaningful knowledge with
regards the subjects picked through the sampling method outlined in the research methodology.
There are various ways in which qualitative research has led to the development of theory
including its utilization to succinctly describe an observed phenomenon as well as generating
deeper elucidation (Eisenhardt, 1989). Considering that an iterative process is usually the norm
in developing a theory, qualitative research strategies have the potential of ensuring that key
concepts underlying the construction of the theory are refined in addition to providing additional
insights into the obtained results (Doz, 2011). According to Du & Kamakura (2012), the testing
and retesting of a theory for its verification and validation is also carried out through qualitative
methods of research by embracing alternative theoretical lenses to approach the phenomenon
investigation and evaluation in order to gather more insights and information on how variables of
the phenomenon relate and interact with each other. Eisenhardt (1989) emphasized that
construction of novel theories can also be achieved through adoption of case studies, which are
in most cases part of qualitative research methods.
Generally, various methods through which research either quantitative or qualitative has
being contributing to the construction or development of theory. For instance, it is only on basis
of research observations through which theory formulation can subsequently lead to construction
of a theory (Doz, 2011). Du & Kamakura (2012) emphasized that it is only through these
research methods through which a researcher can either validate or refute a theory through
further evaluations. Therefore, it is also imperative to note that these research methods are

critical in making sure that more insights concerning a theory are revealed subsequently allowing
the theory to be modified or improved by refining it further (Doz, 2011; Du & Kamakura, 2012).
Example of How a View of Theory Adds to the Field and My Chosen Dissertation Topic
From the three views of a theory aforementioned a previous section of this question (Part
1) as they were proposed by Stam (2007) namely instrumentalism, reductionism, as well as
realism; through careful consideration reductionism view has been determined to be one likely to
lead to a greater extent of contribution of the study proposed in this dissertation. This is
attributable to the fact that, reductionism view has for a while enjoyed wide application in
guiding decision making process in a wide range of academic fields (Stam, 2000). The proposed
dissertation topic of this research study is, “Simon’s Theory of Bounded of Rationality and the
Department of Defense.”  Considering the significance of decision making process in choosing
appropriate military actions, the findings derived from this research are likely to be used to guide
informed and rationally bound decisions as well as additional knowledge in my area of research
or field of study on basis of reductionism paradigm. As a result, the proposed study has a
potential of advancing knowledge through exploration of the effects of leadership styles on
decision making in military (Department of Defense).
The research in this dissertation topic will adopt qualitative research strategy as well as a
reductionist research method to make sure that in-depth understanding is obtain with regards to
how Simon’s Theory of Bounded Rationality is used to inform decisions made by the
Department of Defense. Applying reductionism research methods in conducting this research
study is an imperative strategy that will be very helpful in providing additional information and
important insights into the effects attributable to decisions made by the Department of Defense
based on the Simon’s Theory of Bounded Rationality. Its will be essential to examine this

component individually in order to shed more light with regards to specific aspects of these
components of Department of Defense decisions as well as the possible information to be added
concerning the effects of such specific decisions, as well as leading to additional body of
knowledge in homeland security and leadership. The utilization of reductionism as the research
method of conducting this study will also provide a chance of exploring military decisions made
with regards to Homeland Security and Leadership in the Department of Defense based on
Simon’s Theory of Bounded Rationality.
Despite the fact that, reductionism is without any doubt the most appropriate strategy to
approach in order to ensure that the proposed study is effectively addressed, this view has not
been spared from extensive criticism. For instance, two specific issues have been raised with
regards to reductionism view that ought to be keenly considered by researchers before embarking
on conducting the research (Stam, 2000; Nadler, 2004). In particular, it is important to bear in
mind that all things or systems constituting a theory can be reduced to the specific components or
parts which make them up. In addition, reductionism has been revealed not to be an appropriate
method of approaching a research when the phenomenon under consideration consists of social
systems which are complex or extensively interrelated, especially those involving feedback loops
or intertwined relationships. 
To conclude, it is important to state that research and theory concepts are without any
doubt far reaching and wide irrespective of the fact that they are closely related. It is also
imperative to note that a universal agreement on many aspects of a theory has not been there, and
varied views have all along been expressed by different scholars concerning the nature of theory
or research as well as their subsequent applications, especially when research across varied

academic fields is considered. However, a somewhat consensus has been observed among
scholars from different academic fields concerning the imperativeness of the cycle involved in
developing a theory as well as the paradigm in which theory coexist with research.  
Furthermore, the vital role played by theory cannot be underestimated especially with
regards to providing a strategy through which interactions of variables of a phenomenon under
investigation can be predicted; whereas research is crucial in facilitating the chosen theory to be
tested and discover new observations or gain more insights. As a result, the fact that theory and
research are interrelated is undeniably the dogma guiding generation of additional knowledge
through discoveries as well as revelation of more information about a phenomenon. Thus, it is
inevitable for researchers to rely on this interrelation and coexistence of theory and research to
advance existing knowledge across academic fields.
In most cases the demand for more research has often been triggered by social needs that
are increasingly becoming dynamic; hence, requiring a method of exploring them and possibly
come up with solutions. Curiosity of researchers has also led to development or discovery of
new research methods to gather the data required to solve some problems. Through the adoption
of the new research techniques and/or methods, researchers gain new knowledge which go along
way in advancing an existing theory or develop a new one. As a result, doctoral students must
always remain vigilant in their attempts to approach research based on varied theoretical
concepts in order to ensure their potential is optimally utilized in solving a prevailing problem or
generating further new knowledge.



Aliaga, M., & Gunderson, B. (2005). Interactive statistics, (3 rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education, Inc.
Burgelman, R. A. (2011). Bridging history and reductionism: A key role for longitudinal
qualitative research. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(5), 591-
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Crotty, M. (2003). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research
process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Doz, Y. (2011). Qualitative research for international business.  Journal of International
Business Studies, 42(5), 582-590.
Du, R. Y., & Kamakura, W. A. (2012). Quantitative trend spotting.  Journal of
Marketing Research, 49(4), 514-536.
Eisenhardt, K. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of
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