Theory development is an important component of academic research since it can lead to the acquisition of new knowledge, the development of a field of study, and the formation of theoretical foundations to explain various phenomena. The contribution of qualitative researchers to theory development and advancement remains significant and highly valued, especially in an era of various epochal shifts and technological innovation in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Even so, the academic community has not yet fully explored the dynamics of AI in research and there are significant gaps in our understanding of how AI can be used most effectively in the context of theory building. The aim of this paper, which is driven by critical and conceptualization methodological dynamics, is to investigate the role of AI in the theory development process. As such, it critically evaluates the opportunities and limitations of AI in theory building, delivers a conceptual map of the nexus between AI and theory development, and presents key considerations for the use of AI in the creation of new theories or the advancement of existing ones. Though the necessity of AI tools in theory creation is contested given that the researchers' cognitive and evaluative skills are regarded as critical in this process, the value of AI in advancing theory is not to be underestimated.


artificial intelligence, AI, theory, theory building, qualitative research

Author Bio(s)

Prokopis A. Christou is an Assistant Professor at Cyprus University of Technology and specializes in contemporary experiential issues, qualitative methods, thematic analysis, and the use of AI in qualitative research. He has published various articles in prestigious academic journals based on qualitative methodologies, including conceptual papers, critical perspective articles, systematic reviews, ethnographic, phenomenological and other empirical studies. His interest with AI stems from his observation that it is becoming increasingly useful in a variety of fields, including academia and research, yet is progressively associated with several negative implications and consequences, including the elimination of the human factor, a decrease in human investment in critical and evaluative thinking, and ethical-academic integrity challenges in its implementation. As such, he is currently investigating the applications, potentials, limitations, and ethical implications of AI while addressing concerns about how to effectively use AI as a resource, methodological, and analysis tool in qualitative research, in an endeavour to deliver practical and concrete applications for the appropriate, effective, and ethical use of AI in academia, research, and contemporary society. Please direct correspondence to prokopis.christou@cut.ac.cy.

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