• Book Name: Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills – A Practical Guide for Social Scientists
  • Pages: 413
  • Size: 2 MB
theory construction and model-building skills pdf free download

Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills PDF

Theory construction is at the heart of the scientific process. The strategies that social scientists use to generate and develop ideas are important to understand and foster in young academics and investigators as they prepare for a research-oriented career. Although books have been written about theory construction, there are surprisingly few books on the topic that tackle the problem of teaching students and young professionals, in a practical and concrete way, how to theorize. Students, especially graduate students, take one or more courses on research methods and data analysis, but few experience more than a lecture or two, or read a chapter or two, on theory construction.


It is no wonder that students often are intimidated by the prospect of constructing theories. This book provides young scientists with tools to assist them in the practical aspects of theory construction. It is not an academic discussion of theory construction or the philosophy of science, and we do not delve too deeply into the vast literature on these topics. Rather, we take a more informal journey through the cognitive heuristics, tricks of the trade, and ways of thinking that we have found to be useful in developing theories—essentially, conceptualizations—that can advance knowledge in the social sciences. By taking this journey, we hope to stimulate the thinking and creative processes of readers so that they might think about phenomena in new and different ways, perhaps leading to insights that might not otherwise have resulted.

Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills PDF Free Download

The intent of this book is to provide a practical, hands-on, systematic approach to developing theories and fostering scientific creativity in the conceptual domain. Relative to the vast majority of books on theory construction, this book is unique in its focus on the nuts and bolts of building a theory rather than on an analysis of broad-based systems of thought. Science is about understanding nature and the reasons for things. It is one of humanity’s greatest ongoing adventures. This book is intended to help propel two types of readers along this exciting journey. First, the book is written for graduate and advanced undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers as researchers in the social sciences, as well as for newly minted PhD social scientists. Second, the book also should benefit those who desire to pursue a professional career in the social sciences, but who do not plan on becoming researchers. It will help them understand and evaluate the theories they read in professional journals and identify gaps in those theories.


It will help them think about theories from different vantage points. The book can be used in many different disciplines. We draw on examples from the fields of anthropology, business, communications, education, economics, health, marketing, organizational studies, political science, psychology, social work, and sociology, to name a few. Some instructors may prefer more detailed examples in their particular field of study, but we believe that using examples from multiple disciplines helps students appreciate the commonalities and value of multidisciplinary perspectives. We have used drafts of the book as both a stand-alone text in a course on theory construction as well as one of several texts in graduate courses on research and research methodology. In terms of the latter approach, almost all traditional research methods books include a section or chapter on the nature of theory and/or theory construction.


However, the treatment of theory construction usually is brief and of limited practical value. The present book is intended to provide the instructor with a useful source for helping students come up with ideas for research and for fine-tuning the resultant theories that emerge from such thinking. It provides more detail and more practical knowledge than what is typical of chapters in books on research methodology. The social psychologist William McGuire often lamented about how research training with graduate students focuses at least 90% on teaching methods to test ideas, but no more than 10% on how to get those ideas in the first place. Despite this difference in emphasis, the process of theory development is fundamental to successful scientific research. Indeed, many would say that there can be no theory testing without prior theory. An objective of this book is to move toward a much-needed balance in the emphases given to theory construction and theory testing.


In our research methods courses, we assign this book to be read during the first 2–3 weeks of classes. We allow the book to stand on its own as a teaching device, and we spend 1 or 2 weeks of lectures/discussion on the material. Obviously, not all of the material can be covered in these sessions, so we select material to address based on the needs of the students. Part of the in-class coverage includes providing students with a verbal “road map“ to the book and an overview of each chapter. We stress that students must read the entire book, and we test them on the assigned material with essay and short-answer questions from a small sampling of the book. For some student cohorts, we do not assign certain chapters, depending on the students’ areas of emphasis. For example, students primarily oriented toward qualitative research might not be assigned the chapters on mathematical modeling and/or simulations.


However, we omit chapters with reluctance, as our goal is to expand the theoretical toolbox of students. In our courses on theory construction, we use the book as our main text and cover each chapter during lecture/discussion sessions. We ask students to read one or more chapters the week before class, then discuss those chapters the following week. After a few weeks of class, we start to assign empirical articles in journals that the students are to read. We ask one student to orally summarize in class the theory being espoused in the assigned article and to critique it. 

Theory construction and model-building skills pdf free download.

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