Theory Building and Testing in HRD: Current Advancements and Future Directions

Jaekyo Seo, Ki Bum Noh, Alexandre Ardichvili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This research studied changes in theory building and testing levels, reported in 668 articles published in three leading Human Resource Development (HRD) journals in years 2000 to 2017. Using a modified taxonomy of theory building research, we found evidence to suggest that the trajectory of theory building and testing efforts in HRD suggests that the field has reached a stage of a mature discipline. The study has found that some types of research have become less important as the discipline matured (e.g., Reporters, or articles reporting observation of phenomena) or remain stable (Modifiers of existing theories), whereas others steadily grow in importance (theory Builders and Expanders). Correlating the results of citation analysis with types of articles, we found that articles that propose and test new theoretical constructs at the same time, or those that expand new theories, enjoy significantly higher levels of citations, compared with articles that report observations of practice or duplicate earlier studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-436
Number of pages26
JournalHuman Resource Development Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • HRD theory
  • theory building
  • theory testing


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