This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: • What is Theory?
…and how does it fit into the study of communication
o All theories • Lay vs. Scholarly Theory • Speculation, conjecture, informed guesses, and intuition about
how and why things work as they do
o Lay/commonsense theories
• Individuals formulate to make sense of their worlds
• May or may not be “good” theory
o Working Theories
• Guidelines for behavior in specific contexts
o Scientific/scholarly theories
• Similar to lay and working theories, but:
o Based on research/evidence beyond personal
o More formally specified
o Tested and validated/questioned rigorously
o Usually apply more broadly/generally
-may be must more specific ex . superstitions but as to whom • What is Theory?
o Comes from Greek term meaning “a view” or “to see”
o As in our definitions of “communication” there is no single “correct” definition
• Definitions of theory will depend largely on assumptions of
• There are points of convergence and divergence
• Communication theories share common goal “of attempting to
answer questions regarding how and why communicative
processes work in the ways they do” (Miller, 2005, p. 24).
• Points of Convergence
o Theory is an abstraction of the social world
• Not the same as empirical observation
o Theories are constructions of people
o As much lenses to see the world as they are mirrors of the world
o Only as good as they are practical
• “There is nothing so practical as a good theory”
o Useful theories are rarely easy to develop
• Divergence Points
o Criteria for “good” theory
• Falsifiability? Generalizability?
• Meaning of criteria from book not agreed upon
o Theory vs.
• model/framework-treat as ways to get at things that are like Generalizability theories
• typology/taxonomy-simpler ex. Lists. Aren’t theories but function
o How much should we rely on theory?
-Theory help guide us that may lead us to ask certain questions and approach research
in a certain way, so it SHOULD help us better understand. Can have their limitations: be
so reliant that they mislead us Theories as Tradeoffs
o Tradeoffs are made between accuracy, generalizability, and simplicity . ex. Increase
in generalizability and accuracy decreases simplicity. Once you increase one it
decreases the others • What are “Parts” of a Theory?
o Most scientific theories include: Description of phenomena (concepts, terms, definitions, etc.) Relationships among these phenomena (propositions about patterns/regularities)
patterns/regularities) An underlying “storyline” that describes mechanisms at work (why?
motives or other forces)
motives Links between the abstract theory and observed phenomena
• How are Theories Developed?
o Deductive approach to theory building:
• Abstract theories are developed early in process, then tested
with empirical observations
o Inductive approach to theory building:
• Theoretical abstractions are grounded on extensive empirical
o Key part of inquiry process
• Theory leads to hypotheses to test
• Results support/refute and thus refine theory
• Key Functions of Theory
o Address Problems: arranged in order of complexity of achieving (as go down more
o Primary Goal:
• Organize ex. Listings
• Explain ex. Some may help reputations other may not. Trying to
figure out underline mechanism for them. Is the organization truthful?
Why something is happening?
• Predict ex. What will happen?
• Control ex. More idea to manipulate, control behaviors through
things such as campaigns ...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 01/26/2012 for the course COMM 200 taught by Professor Theiss during the Spring '07 term at Rutgers.
- Spring '07