Pre-understanding: An interpretation-enhancer and horizon-expander in research

Mats Alvesson, Jörgen Sandberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


Pre-understanding – our presuppositions of reality – underlies all research. Many researchers probably also draw productively on their pre-understanding in their studies. However, very few rationales and methodological resources exist for how researchers can enrich their research by mobilizing their pre-understanding more actively and systematically. We elaborate and propose a framework for how researchers more actively, systematically and visibly can bring forward their pre-understanding and use it as a positive input in research, alongside formal data and theory. In particular, we show how researchers, in dialogue with data and theory, can mobilize their pre-understanding as an interpretation-enhancer and horizon-expander throughout the research process, including stimulating imagination and idea generation, broadening the empirical base, and evaluating what empirical material and theoretical ideas are interesting and relevant to pursue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-412
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number3
Early online date11 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding: Author received no funding for this output

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • hermeneutics
  • interesting studies
  • knowledge production
  • pre-understanding
  • research methods
  • theory development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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