The Ingredients of Theory

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?



Now that we are aware of the necessity to be prepared prior to developing a theory let us move on to the ingredients.

The ingredients can be gleaned from Chaftez, Dubin, Jaccard and Jacoby, Whetten and Mintzberg. The ingredients are: ( I have added purpose)

  • Purpose – Why
  • Assumptions – Why
  • Concepts – What
  • Concept Definitions – What
  • Patterns – What
  • Relationships – How
  • Propositions – Why

Purpose: The purpose of a theory is a rational stated motive for an expected state.  A theories purpose explains or justifies why something happened that was caused by some previous phenomenon. Purpose represents a likely final state, achievement or result and is associated with the process of logical thinking as a consequence of another action, condition, or event that solves a problem or explains how to solve a problem. Purpose is the reason for which something exists, or for which it has been done or made, and is manifested as an anticipated outcome that is intended or guides planned actions to achieve a desired result.  (Pattern Engine – Purpose n=12  ©2013)

Assumptions:  Assumptions are statements accepted as known and, not subject to direct verification and help explain some aspect of reality.  Assumptions are the theoretical glue that welds the theory together and constitutes the “Why?” aspect.  My assumptions are principles.

Concepts: 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 – QUALITY. Concepts provide the content and building blocks of theory that consist of words that are relatively high in level of abstractness. Understanding is knowledge about the interaction of concepts in a system. 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. Theories consist of concepts whose definitions are often built upon one another and thus comprise a system of interrelated concepts. The ConPriDigm is a construct.

Concept Definitions: Concepts play a critical role in theories and careful attention must be paid to their development and precise definition; solid edifice cannot arise from weak, faulty or carelessly put together building blocks. Probably the best means available to avoid a major problem often encountered in definitions is to employ the age old form develop by Aristotle.  An Aristotelian definition consists of two parts. The first part, called the genius proximum tells what the phenomenon in question shares with a larger class of phenomena.  The second part, genus specifica, tells what is peculiar to phenomena in question.

Conceptual Patterns: The development of conceptual patterns will be my contribution to the final theory presented in this book. I have developed a Pattern Engine based on Aristotelian concept definitions and the decomposition and reconstruction of principles.

Relationships:  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. The conceptual realm entails the development of a conceptual system consisting of concepts, constructs and their relationships that can be communicated unambiguously to others. Relationships also help to answer the question ‘how?”.  How are the factors (variables, constructs, concepts) related? This step adds conceptualization by explicitly delineating patterns. How is often put in the form of a theoretical statement and is graphically represented. When I (Mintzberg) think about it (theory) I see explanation along a continuum, from lists (categories), to topologies (comprehensive lists), to impressions of relationships among factors (not necessarily “variables”: that sounds too refined for many of the factors I work with), to causations between and patterns among these relationships, to fully explanatory models (which interweave all the factors in question).

Propositions:  Propositions are the substance of theories. Explanation, the reason for all theories, is conveyed through a series of statements called propositions. Propositions are truth statements that can be used for a theory that has its concepts, laws of interaction among the concepts, boundaries, and system states specified. The criterion of the system of logic by which the theorist thinks makes all the propositions about the theory he or she builds true. Propositions link concepts in ways that result in something testable. However, only hypotheses require measures.

This post will conclude our adventure that seeks to answer the question “What is Theory?”.  Needless to say, theory provides the methodology to express the DNA and meaning of Quality.

In the next chapter we will explore the concept of a Concept.  Defining concepts accurately and objectively is critical for developing a theory with explanatory power.


Flashback in Theory Chapter

The Mind or Concept Map for Chapter Two



Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Patrick Kelly

Concept Definitions and Semantics

LOGO FINALQuality IS… an abstract concept.

Why identify the mental glue that secures our past experiences?

If the meaning of concepts is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


Robert Harris, retired Professor of English at Vanguard University, addresses some of the pitfalls of the reliance on definitions to communicate the meaning of a concept in his blog Virtual Salt, Semantics2 –  posted in June of 2000.

Sometimes nouns have more than one meaning. A noun’s denotation is its literal meaning, the way it would be defined in a dictionary. A noun’s connotation is its implied meaning, such as the emotions or images the word evokes. Denotation is the specific, literal image, idea, concept, or object that a noun refers to in context. Connotations may be (1) private and personal, the result of individual experiences (2) group (national, linguistic, racial) or (3) general or universal, held by all or most men. The scientist and philosopher attempt to hold words to their denotative meaning; the literary artist or management guru rely on connotations to carry their deepest meanings. We might say that a noun’s connotation is the emotional meaning not typically found in a dictionary.

To complicate things, nouns may have four different kinds of definitions: Descriptive, Stipulative, Normative and Persuasive.

The Descriptive definition is, the kind that tells what a thing is or is like, the kind usually found in the dictionary.

The Stipulative is a special definition offered by a writer or organization for convenience of understanding.  This is a mutually agreed upon special, specific meaning of a term that ordinarily has another meaning, or a similar but vague meaning.

The Normative definition is intended to set a standard or even a goal for something rather than to describe the thing as it really is. The confusing aspect of normative and descriptive definitions is a common source of misunderstanding.

The Persuasive definition is designed to persuade the reader or hearer of the worth of the defined term.

Clearly then, how we decide to  “define” our concept nouns depends, in part, on the purpose of what we are trying to convey to the reader or to society in general.  Far too often we are turning to the connotative, stipulative, normative and persuasive definitions of our concept nouns because they can generate more emotion or promote an agenda. A critical step toward developing a deep understanding of a concept starts with the realization that the noun in question is a concept and we need to be careful how we define them.

Some experts take issue with the act of simply defining concepts – next post.