Texas Tech University

Dr. Ajay Kohli (Georgia Tech) Hosts Theory Development Workshop for Marketing Doctoral Students

Trevor Bell

April 26, 2016


Marketing doctoral students recently learned about developing a new theory when Dr. Ajay Kohli, professor of Marketing at Georgia Tech, hosted a workshop at the Rawls College on Friday, April 8. Dr. Kohli's visit was the third installment of the Marketing Distinguished Speaker Series.

During the presentation, he detailed his prior work on theory development and discussed with students the precise nature of theories, and why good theories are invaluable for effective marketing practice.

"There's an art form to theory construction," Dr. Kohli said. "You need to clearly define your constructs, develop propositions to link the constructs, and provide sound arguments for the propositions. This is not easy, but once you nail down the three components, you have a theory."

Dr. Kohli then shifted his focus to comparing theory application with theory construction, as well as noting some characteristics of theories that make them interesting and impactful. In particular, he emphasized that theories need to be plausible, have conceptual integrity, and be memorable.


He then proceeded to outline a sequence of steps representing the theory construction process. The first step involves generating a reasoned conjecture based on personal experience, observations, prior research, news, etc. The next step involves checking for the plausibility of the conjecture across settings, and revising it as appropriate. This or a subsequent version of it is followed by a conceptual screen for the memorability and usefulness of the theoretical conjecture, and revised as appropriate. This iterative process moves forward until the scholar arrives at a theory with which she or he is comfortable.

"This process is like a jigsaw puzzle. There are four main components to be created/developed, but they must all fit together perfectly in order for you have developed a theory," he said.

Dr. Kohli also answered questions from the doctoral students - and several Rawls College faculty members - and challenged them to think more critically when trying to develop and incorporate theories in their research.

Dr. Kohli with marketing Ph.D. students

To view more photos from Dr. Kohli's presentation, visit the Rawls College's Flickr account.

Previous speakers for the Marketing Distinguished Speaker Series included Dr. Dawn Iacobucci (Vanderbilt University) and Dr. Sundar Bharadwaj (University of Georgia). In the fall, Dr. Dass plans to relaunch the speaker series and will invite more renowned marketing researchers. The dates of these presentations are yet to be announced, but students and faculty members will be informed when this information becomes available. For more information regarding the Marketing Distinguished Speaker Series, please contact Dr. Dass at mayukh.dass@ttu.edu.

This supports the efforts outlined in the Rawls College of Business Strategic Plan. Learn more about the LEADER 2020 Strategic Plan and follow our progress on Twitter at #RawlsLeads.