15.341 | Fall 2006 | Graduate

Individuals, Groups, and Organizations


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


This course is for doctoral students who are interested in processes and structures within organizations. We will examine processes within the organization from the individual to the group to the organizational level of analysis. We will draw upon work from a variety of social science disciplines.

Organizations as a fairly distinct field emerged only in the late 1940s, and most of its growth has occurred in the last 25 years. It encompasses a large, diverse, expanding, and changing literature. It has been characterized as pre-paradigmatic in the sense that there are not universal exemplars, approaches, or methods. Jim March has noted, “The study of organizations is more a classical field of scholarship than a simple theoretical structure, and organization theory is a mosaic of ideas and empirical results rather than an axiomatic system.”

The philosophy of this course recognizes the impossibility of covering much of this vast and amorphous literature. Our aim will be to sample approaches and to evaluate their applicability to proposed studies of individuals, groups, and organizations. The course will present you with some of the major perspectives and controversies across topics and levels of analysis. You will achieve some familiarity with various theoretical lenses and be aware of the range of approaches and tradeoffs in using any one lens for analysis. Integration across topics, levels, and theories will be encouraged.

This year we will enrich the course with a series of Behavioral and Policy Sciences guest faculty. This will help to give students an introduction to the range of viewpoints and approaches in BPS.


The course is run as a seminar, although brief introductory lectures will sometimes be given. This means that students are responsible for discussing topics and readings. Each student is expected to do all the readings for each session and to be prepared to discuss and comment on all the readings (the exception to this is if a debate among competing viewpoints has been planned, with students specializing in particular readings). Our task will be to find ideas that are interesting and provocative in the readings. Although criticism is important, it is all too easy to find problems in empirical work and gaps in theories. Thus, we want to understand what is being attempted, what has been accomplished, and what the readings suggest about further extensions, refinements, and empirical research. The latter part of each session will be spent designing studies that can contribute to our knowledge.


Each student will be graded on three components:

Quality of in-class participation 20%
Weekly memos 40%
A final seminar paper 40%

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2006
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments