Chapter 2 Notes
Chapter 2 – Theory and Social Research
- Theory has an important role in research and is an essential ally for the researcher.
- It is important to know three things about how social scientific theories work.
o Social theories explain recurring patterns, not unique or one-time events.
o Social theories are explanations for aggregates, not particular individuals.
(Aggregates are collections of many individuals, cases, businesses, schools
o Social theories state a probability, chance, or tendency for events to occur, rather
than state that one event must absolutely follow another.
What is Theory?
- Social theory can be defined as a system of interconnected abstractions or ideas that
condenses and organizes knowledge about the social world.
- All research involves some sort of theory, the question is how you use is it and whether
- Blame Analysis: type of counterfeit argument presented as if it were a theoretical
explanation. Substitutes attributing blame for a causal explanation that is backed by
supporting empirical evidence. It shifts the focus from Why did it occur to who is
The Parts of Theory
o An idea expressed as a symbol or in words. Concepts have two parts, a symbol
and a definition.
o We create concepts from personal experiences, creative thoughts or observation.
o Concept Clusters
Concepts are rarely used in isolation as they form interconnected groups.
o Classification Concepts
Concepts are simple and have on dimension. Others are complex and
have multiple dimensions.
Some concepts are highly abstract, some are middle level and some are
concrete. The wider the scope, the more abstract the concept.
- Assumptions CCT208H5S
Chapter 2 Notes
o Concepts and theories build on assumptions about the nature of human beings,
social reality, or a particular phenomenon.
o All concepts contain assumptions about social relations or how people behave.
o Theories specify how concepts relate to one another and whether concepts are
related or not.
The Aspects of Theory
Theory can be categorized in terms of:
- Direction of Theorizing
o Deductive Approach: Begin with an abstract, logical relationship among
concepts, them toward concrete empirical evidence. You have ideas how the
world operates and want to test these ideas against ‘hard data’. (Theory First)
o Inductive Approach: begin with detailed observations of the world and move
toward more abstract generalizations and ideas. When you begin you may have
only a topic and a few vague concepts. As you observe, you refine concepts,
develop empirical generalizations, and identify preliminary relationships. You
build the theory from the ground up. (Theory Last)
- Range of Theory
o Empirical Generalization: least abstract theoretical statement and has a very
narrow range. Simple statement about a pattern or generalization among two or
more concrete concepts. (Ex. More men than women choose engineering as a
o Middle-Range Theory: More abstract than empirical generalization. Focuses on a
specific substantive topic area (domestic violence, student volunteering),
includes a multiple empirical generalizing and builds a theoretical explanation.
o Theoretical Frameworks: Aka Paradigm/Theoretical System, more abstract than
the previous two. Provide collection of assumptions, concepts, and forms of
explanation. Frameworks i