Course Description

This seminar provides an introduction to scholarship in a growing research community: the sociologists and sociologically-inclined organization theorists who study issues that relate, at least in a broad sense to the interdisciplinary field of inquiry that is known as "strategy" or "strategic management" research. The course is not designed to survey the field of strategy. Rather, the focus is on getting a closer understanding of the recent work by sociologists and sociologically-oriented organization theorists that investigates central questions in strategic management. In particular, we will be concerned with identifying and assessing sociological work that aims to shed light on: (a) relative firm performance; (b) the nature of competition and market interaction; (c) organizational capabilities; (d) the beginnings of industries and firms; (e) the diffusion or transfer of ideas and practices across firms; and (f) strategic change.

The seminar has three interlocking aims. Students who take the seminar should: (a) gain a greater appreciation for the intellectual foundation that supports the application of sociological concepts and frameworks to the study of strategic management; (b) develop critical skills for the evaluation of cutting-edge work in this research community; (c) and be better prepared to join this community if they so desire. In sum, the class is about cultivating a taste for research in this community, which involves appreciating why researchers are doing what they are doing, distinguishing good from bad work, and applying those lessons to one's own research (which should also be applicable to other areas of social science).

The overall thrust of the course will be synthetic: while we will analyze each piece of research on its own terms, we will spend less time critically evaluating individual articles and more on trying to identify broad themes, patterns, and dissonances. The main challenge will be to see how things fit together and where the major lacunae lie.

Course Prerequisites

The course is restricted to PhD students. It will be assumed that all students have taken at least a first-year course in organizational sociology or ("macro") organization theory. A course in Strategic Management will be very helpful but not necessary. A working knowledge of qualitative and quantitative methods used in contemporary social science research will also be helpful but not necessary.

Course Requirements

Students taking the class for degree credit have three requirements:

  • Class participation: 25% of the grade. Performance will be a function of both quantity and quality. In order for the class to succeed, students must have read the readings and be prepared to talk critically about them.

  • Weekly memos: 40% of the grade. Students must submit a 3-5 page memo for each class. In the memo, the students should discuss at least three of the readings for a given week. The topic and organization of the memos are given below. Students should also prepare 4-5 transparencies and be prepared to lead a portion of the class discussion based on their memo. Ten memos will be required during the course (which leaves one free week).

  • Final exam: 35% of the grade. The exam will involve answering a short number of essay questions that will be of the general type that are asked on generals.


Class Participation 25%
Weekly Memos 40%
Final Exam 35%