As straightforward as its title, How to Build Social Science Theories sidesteps the well-traveled road of theoretical examination by demonstrating how new theories originate and how they are elaborated. Essential reading for students of social science research, this book traces theories from their most rudimentary building blocks (terminology and definitions) through multivariable theoretical statements, models, the role of creativity in theory building, and how theories are used and evaluated. Authors Pamela J. Shoemaker, James William Tankard, Jr., and Dominic L. Lasorsa intend to improve research in many areas of the social sciences by making research more theory-based and theory-oriented. The book begins with a discussion of concepts and their theoretical and operational definitions. It then proceeds to theoretical statements, including hypotheses, assumptions, and propositions.  Theoretical statements need theoretical linkages and operational linkages; this discussion begins with bivariate relationships, as well as three-variable, four-variable, and further multivariate relationships.  The authors also devote chapters to the creative component of theory-building and how to evaluate theories.

Theoretical Statements Relating Three Variables

Theoretical statements relating three variables

A frequent occurrence in communication research is to begin a line of inquiry with a hypothesis of broad, across-the-board effects, only to find in subsequent research that the effect is not general but occurs only under certain conditions. What started out as a clean, neat two-variable hypothesis needs to be qualified. The hypothesis is no longer parsimonious; it needs to have qualifying phrases tacked on. And it is no longer as general, and therefore not as potent; it holds up only in certain situations. Meadow (1985) appeared to have been referring to this occurrence when he wrote, “After four decades of exploration, we are left with one answer to the question of media effects—‘it depends’” (p. ...

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