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Theory and theoretical frameworks
This topic aims at defining and describing theory, its types and functions, and its concepts as frames of research studies. • A definition of theory • Types of theories • Criteria for evaluating theory • The nature of theories • The functions of theories • Theoretical perspectives and categories
• When the terms „theory‟ or „theoretical‟ are mentioned, people either respond convincingly adversely or slightly positively • Some individuals object that theories are unfeasible since they are too far removed from practicable reality • Others compare it to being in a labyrinth from which there is no escape from the overwhelming unfamiliar jargon and unusual notions presented.
• Theory and practice are the two sides of the same coin and cannot or should not be separated. we need to understand that theories about reality constitute and embrace most of what we know and experience whether we recognise it or not. • The same inseparability is also true with regard to research and theory.• However. • We daily use and „assess‟ theories in our interaction with others and our subjective experiences within different social contexts. Introduction . • Theory is indispensable in any research study.
• In the well-known fairy tale by the Grimm bothers. two small children used breadcrumbs to find their way out of the woods and back home. entitled Hansel and Gretel. Introduction . • It is the roadmap we use in the expedition of finding patterns in answering research questions and arriving at closer solutions to the problems that led us to do research in the first instance. • Theoretical concepts and constructs are the breadcrumbs that help us to traverse the research journey. • This is a powerful metaphor to describe the importance of theory in research. • A theoretical framework moulds the outcomes and findings of a research study.
a theory may be defined as a body or an organised set of concepts and principles used to explain a phenomenon or some aspect of human experience Defining theory . • Specifically. • They enable us to have an abstract yet focused understanding of an aspect of the reality in which we exist.• Theories could be described as the lenses through which we view the world. • Broadly speaking. Theories form the academic foundation of every discipline and allow the transformation of information into knowledge. a theory is a systematic description of the nature of specific processes in a given discipline.
• Theory is the grounding in which a research study is embedded • It forms the conceptual framework within which data is interpreted and understood. Defining theory . • No research study can be conducted without a theoretical foundation • It provides the frame or outline by which we codify and organise what we know.
• If we define theory as a conceptual representation or explanation of a phenomenon. two generalisations of the nature of theory apply: • Theories are abstractions and hence are partial explanations of an aspect of reality or a phenomenon. and hence they do not substitute or replace reality The nature of theory . Theories can never represent the totality of human experience. and • They provide ways to view an aspect of reality.
astronomer.• All theories are subject to reformulation and sometimes the reformulation of a theory may be revolutionary. and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution • He supported Nicolaus Copernicus the Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who proposed that the earth circles the sun and not the other way around as was previously believed. for example. mathematician. an Italian physicist. • Consider. The nature of theory . the fate of Galileo Galilei.
conflict over theories may be life threatening: “An argument in southern Russia over philosopher Immanuel Kant.” The nature of theory . but they do sometimes suffer severe criticism from other theorists. researchers and the public. • However.” devolved into pure mayhem when one debater shot the other. academics. the author of “Critique of Pure Reason.• His writings in support of Copernicanism were investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615 and he was later accused of heresy. • Fortunately theorists and researchers today are not forced to recant their theories and placed under house arrest.
the nature of humanity and issues that can neither be directly observed nor empirically tested. • We make and use assumptions as a point of departure in explaining theories.• Assumptions: are inherently part of theoretical statements about aspects of reality. Components of theories . • An assumption may be defined as an untested starting point or belief in a theory that is necessary in order to build a theoretical explanation.
Components of theories . They are “the building blocks of theory” • Concepts are symbolic expressions of aspects of a theory and have two dimensions. a verbal symbol. • Labelling a concept means giving it a name.• Concepts: are the most basic components or parts of a theory. • a label or symbol and a definition. • A definition is an explanation and description of the contextual meaning of a concept. namely.
• Concepts and their associated definitions are inseparable. and „simulation‟ (the labels and verbal symbols) without its accompanying definitions. Components of theories . • Imagine coming across concepts such as „simulacrum‟ or „simulacra‟. • You will probably be lost in the postmodern world of the philosophical treatise on Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard like most of us.
It thus becomes necessary in a research study to describe the exact „technical‟ and theoretical meaning of a concept. By conceptualisation we define a concept to assist in organising our thoughts and hence enlarge our knowledge base.• Concepts have different levels of abstraction. • They vary from direct. • As we grow accustomed to using them. This is exactly the purpose of conceptualisations. The term „ego‟ is an example of a concept that was originally part of a theory on personality by Sigmund Freud. The way the term is used in everyday conversation is often far removed from the original concept used by Freud. concrete observable aspects to abstract mental constructs or creations that are difficult to explain such as in the example used in the previous slide. Concepts . their definitions become ambiguous and blurred. the necessary component of a research proposal that is discussed in chapter x. • Certain concepts that were part of research studies become popular cultural terms and phrases used in everyday life.
• The term „ego‟ is an example of a concept that was originally part of a theory on personality by Sigmund Freud. • It thus becomes necessary in a research study to describe the exact „technical‟ and theoretical meaning of a concept. the necessary component of a research proposal. • This is exactly the purpose of conceptualisations. • By conceptualisation we define a concept to assist in organising our thoughts and hence enlarge our knowledge base. Concepts . • The way the term is used in everyday conversation is often far removed from the original concept used by Freud.
or lenses that guide the research process. • Generally. mesotheory and microtheory. • It also involves an exploration of the theory that was generated by a research study in a particular field of inquiry or discipline.' the study of those underlying assumptions which shape particular theoretical perspectives. Types of theories . macrotheory. • A metatheory as the 'theory of theory.• Theories can be classified or categorised in terms of their level of analysis • Classes include metatheory. metatheory is an analytical probing of the theoretical and conceptual frames.
Types of theories . he or she is engaging in macrotheory. • Charles Darwin‟s theory of evolution in an example of a macrotheory since it involves the theory of the evolution of animals and humanity at large.• When a researcher takes a broad approach in a research study and tries to get a „bird‟s eye view‟ of large collectives such as societies.
and macrotheory where smaller categories of society are investigated. Types of theories . • An example of mesotheory is studying an organisation or youth culture. investigating an aspect of social life such as how individual employees may increase their productivity.• A microtheory involves the study of occurrences at an individual or small group level • For example. • A mesotheory falls into the intermediate level between micro.
• It is also referred to as „theory-in-use‟.• Common-sense theories • This type of theory is created through an individual‟s personal experiences and what he/she has learned about reality through cultural and traditional means. Types of theories . it is what is commonly sensed and accepted as being true. • An example is you having a theory that lending money to a friend will ruin the friendship. • Thus.
• Writing a business report or plan and using a particular method because it is the generally accepted way serves as an example of a working theory.• Working theories • Working theories apply to business practices and professions when there are agreed upon ways of carrying out a specific task. Types of theories . • They are generalised notions about activities and are more systematic than common-sense theories.
• A scholarly theory also explains the relationships between concepts and constructs and is thus perceived as more complex and difficult to understand. precise and abstract description of interconnected concepts related to a phenomenon. • A scholarly theory provides an in-depth. Types of theories .• Scholarly theories • Scholarly theories are the focus of unit and concern a theory that has been constructed based on systematic research.
• Theories allow us predict and control aspects of reality. • By using a theory we identify and select what aspects of behaviour or aspects of social reality to study. we use critical theories to ask questions about aspects of the human condition. Functions of theory . • In order to challenge the status quo. They thus help us to organise and understand our experiences. • Theories thus allow us to contest social and cultural realities.• We use theories to organise a range of experiences into smaller categories. In so doing we generate novel ways of thinking and experiencing.
Functions of theory . • Theories aid and support a critical evaluation of definitions and models presented in a research study. develop and construct new theories or expand on existing ones. • Theory serve a heuristic or „generative‟ function‟ by allowing us to generate.• Theories may promote a previously insignificant concept and may help us to see things we have not observed before in ways we have not considered before. and • Exploring theory may unearth previously unobserved or undetected concepts.
including theoretical scope. • Several criteria have been proposed to evaluate the worth of a theory. appropriateness.• Researchers and theorists evaluate the value of theories and compare one theory with another. parsimony and openness. heuristic value. validity. Evaluating theory .
The theory originates from biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy's general system theory (GST) that was postulated in 1928 and some of its assumptions are applicable in the social systems theory of sociologist Niklas Luhmann. assumptions inherent in the systems theory is applicable not only to closed biological systems but to all types of systems in all fields of inquiry.• The theoretical scope of a theory refers to its inclusiveness and generality in terms of explaining a single occurrence or a whole range of events. • On the one hand. • To be classified as theoretical. • For example. • Assumptions made about a single instance or event is not considered a theoretical explanation. but on the other hand. postulated in 1997. a theory should be applicable to a broad field. an assumption must be transferable to a bigger range of events. Evaluating theory . its applicability should not be too broad and superficial.
ontology and axiology reflect in the grounding tradition or paradigm. • In this evaluation criterion of a theory we may pose the question: Is there is clear and discernible link between the tradition within which a study is grounded. conceptual framework. the supporting theoretical framework.• Appropriateness relates to the soundness and consistency between a theory and its underlying assumptions. the research question and research methodology selected? Evaluating theory . • It refers to whether the philosophical assumptions of epistemology. research questions and the research methods selected by the researcher. its philosophical assumptions.
This is so since the theoretical assumption inherent in your research question is in line with media effects theories which assume that people are passive in absorbing media representations. Your theoretical assumptions are thus not appropriate for the research question. Theories must be appropriate for the assumptions. you decide to investigate that men‟s expectations regarding female sexual behaviour are affected by prolonged exposure to pornography. One of your theoretical assumptions state that men are active. rather than passive agents who do not merely model their perceptions on media representation. • The consequence is that there is no „natural fit‟ between your research question and the theoretical assumption you made. goals and data of the research in question. Evaluating theory .• For example.
• External consistency relates to how coherent a theory is with other theories in the same theoretical tradition. • If a theory makes a leap from one concept to another without adequately explaining a logical relationship. it has no internal consistency. the theory has an external inconsistency. • If it negates and disagrees with other theories without substantive argumentation. Internal consistency relates to the logical use of ideas and constructs in the development of a theory.• Additionally there are internal and external consistency. Evaluating theory .
• This criterion also refers to intellectual growth. • The implication is that if a theory inspires thought and aids in the discovery of new ideas.• The heuristic value of a theory means that a particular theory stimulates further investigation and allows the discovery of new ideas. and problem solving generated by a theory. it has a heuristic value. • The word „heuristic‟ stems from the Greek term „heurisko‟ which means „I find‟ used in reference to an idea. development. Evaluating theory .
and how generalisable the findings of a research study is to a larger population. In the interpretivist tradition the aim is to provide an in-depth understanding of relatively smaller sample sizes. • Generalisability is equivalent to the theoretical scope of a study. and. namely: value. • We need to establish whether there is a fit between the explanations offered by the theory and the actual data collected. correspondence or fit. generalisability. Evaluating theory . but mostly refers to a quantitative study grounded in the positivist tradition where the aim is to generalise theories. • No single theory will ever reveal the whole „truth‟ or be able to totally address the subject of investigation”.• The validity of a theory is measured in terms of three aspects.
Explaining a complicated issue in a theory with acuity or insight leads to the proverbial „wow factor‟ or „aha moment‟ (the moment of illumination) for others who read the explanation. • The idea is that the simpler the explanation.• Parsimony (The law of parsimony is also referred to as Ockham's razor) refers to how simply and succinctly a theory explains complex aspects of reality. the better the theory. provided that it does not oversimplify and overlook important concepts of the theory. • A parsimonious a study may also be described in terms of its acuity. Evaluating theory .
interpretations and improvement. and qualified”. we have to be aware that theories are constructions and not reproductions of aspects of reality. As was mentioned earlier. • Theory is “tentative. contextual. Evaluating theory .• Openness is the degree to which a theory is open to other possible explanations.
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