Lecture 1 - Chapter 1.
What is a Theory? A system of ideas that are used to explain the causes and/or consequences of (social)
A Theory has 3 main components:
1) Definitions: What do the key terms in a theory mean? For example, in Durkheim's suicide theory, one
would have to define suicide, social integration, anomie, etc.
2) Description of the phenomena of interest. Describe everything about situation/test you're
3) Relational Statements: Theories suggest ways that concepts are related to each other. E.g. As social
integration increases, the suicide rate decreases.
There are 2 types of Relational Statements:
- Deterministic - in which the two concepts/variables always go together. E.g. As social integration
increases, the suicide rate decreases.
- Probabilistic - in which the two concepts/variables regularly (but not always) go together. With this
type of relational statement, terms such as more likely, less likely are often used when relating
concepts/variables. E.g. suicide becomes less likely as integration increases.
NOTE: Probabilistic relational statements are more commonly used in social research than deterministic
"Size" of a Theory.
+ Grand Theories:
- General, abstract: - All encompassing with regards to time and space. E.g. structural functionalism,
symbolic interactionism, critical theory, post structuralism, post modernism. These are very useful as a
way of seeing the world but not very useful for directly guiding research.
+ Middle Range Theories (Merton):
- More limited in scope and less abstract. They tend to refer to a more specific time/place/situation. E.g.
Durkheim's Suicide Theory, Merton's Anomie Theory. What is Research?
This is a mixture of observations and interpretations that either - sheds light on an existing theory, or -
helps to build new ones.
How do we move between Theory and Research?
- Deductive Approach: Theory => Observations/Findings.
- Inductive Approach: Observations/Findings => Theory.
+ Deductive Approach: Steps to Deductive Research:
1) Theory -> 2) Hypothesis -> 3) Data Collection -> 4) Findings -> 5) Hypotheses confirmed or rejected ->
6) Possible revision of theory.
+Inductive Approach: Steps to Inductive Research:
1) Gather data -> 2) Make statements or generalizations about data -> 3) Derive explanatory theory
from these statements.
NOTE: Inductive approach is also called Grounded Theory because it starts "on the ground" with
Comparisons between Inductive and Deductive Approach
- Deductive approach is more commonly used than the inductive approach.
- Just one approach is almost never used. Research is conducted going back and forth between inductive