Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?
What is Theory? – from James Jaccard and Jacob Jacoby, authors of Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills.
- Theories comprise a system of interrelated concepts and accordingly are a set of statements about relationship(s) between two or more concepts or constructs.
- Higher order concepts are called constructs because they refer to instances that are synthesized from concepts at lower levels of abstraction and hence require precise definition.
- Some scientists believe that pursuing theory construction without engaging in participant observation or obtaining qualitative data is folly.
- A theory can lead to identifying, organizing or predicting some delimited portion of the experienced world.
- Answering the question “why?” involves moving to deeper levels of understanding by generating ideas about new explanatory constructs and the relationships between them, with the answers to such questions representing explanation.
- Basic research is characterized as research that is not directly focused on pressing real-world problems, tends to rely on concepts that are relatively broad in scope, and produce findings with the intent of contributing to and extending our basic understanding of the phenomenon in question.
- Regardless of how detailed, and dynamic by themselves, conceptual systems such as theories are not scientific only pre-scientific. To be fully scientific they need to be subjected to empirical testing.
- Empirical systems make little sense without a corresponding conceptual system for purposes of organization.
- At its core science can be thought of as consisting of a conceptual realm, on the one hand, and an empirical realm, on the other.
- The conceptual realm entails the development of a conceptual system consisting of concepts, constructs and their relationships that can be communicated unambiguously to others.
- The empirical realm refers to the process whereby the worth of the conceptualization is assessed through the conduct of scientific studies.
- Abstract concepts have to be defined as precisely as possible, but even seemingly obvious concepts frequently require explication.
- Understanding encompasses identifying, describing, organizing, differentiating, predicting, and explaining.
In my next post we will hear from David A. Whetten, editor of the Academy of Management Review