According to Babbie, theory is:

  • A systematic sets of interrelated statements intended to explain some aspect of social life (they attempt to explain what we see).
  • It is tied to observable events and makes predictions about empirical findings.
  • And it is a series of structures linking constructs to action, eventually linked to behavior.

One way to think about theory is to think about modeling.

Whetten (1989) suggests the Modeling-as-theorizing methodology for theory development that uses graphical modeling logic conventions. He suggests that “A theory is a collection of assertions, both verbal and symbolic that identifies WHAT variables are important for what reasons, specifies HOW they are interrelated and WHY, and identifies the CONDITIONS under which they should be related or not related.”

Here is some more explanations about “WHAT, HOW, WHY, and the CONDITIONS.”

  1. ‘Whats’-as-constructs: What are the elements of my conceptualization?
    • Brainstorming constructs using post-it notes, PIN.
    • Assessing complementarity or compatibility of the constructs by considering the scope of the concepts and the coherence of the constructs.
  2. ‘Hows’-as-relationships: the specification of relationships between constructs is the key difference between a theory and a list:
    • Placing the core construct in the center.
    • Aligning constructs horizontally in terms of sequence.
    • Creating vertical dimension on the core sequence of the model for moderating constructs.
    • Using arrows, directions, line thickness to indicate explicit theoretically relevant relationships in conceptualization.
  3. ‘Whys’-as-conceptual assumptions: The conceptual assumptions underlying a theory can be thought of as ‘second order explanations’ the implicit whys underlying an explicit answer to a specific why question.
    • Considering various typologies in the field and how various conceptual assumptions can pose a threat to coherence.
  4. ‘When/where/who’-as-contextual assumptions: specify the contextual boundaries, or conditions, that circumscribe a set of theoretical propositions.
(Adapted from group and course notes)
(Flashcards and other resources here)

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