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.

Creativity and Theory Building

Creativity and theory building

Theory building is typically driven by the desire to explain something. Before there is a theory, there is usually a theoretical problem. But where does the theoretical problem come from? Theoretical problems can come from a desire to accomplish some task, a concern about the social impact or social consequences of something, or a wish to understand some process better.

Theories need to be developed to address these kinds of problems, but where do the theories come from? Theories must be developed by human thinkers. And often this process of thinking in the search for theories is highly creative.

The creative side of theory building has often been neglected in textbooks and classes. This chapter discusses some possible beginning points ...

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