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How to Build Social Science Theories

How to Build Social Science Theories

December 2003 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Click 'Additional Materials' to read the foreword by Jerald Hage

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.

How to Build Social Science Theories is a sophisticated yet readable analysis presented by internationally known experts in social science methodology. It is designed primarily as a core text for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in communication theory. It will also be a perfect addition to any course dealing with theory and research methodology across the social sciences. Additionally, professional researchers will find it an indispensable guide to the genesis, dissemination, and evaluation of social science theories.

Jerald Hage
1. Introduction: The Nature of Science
2. Theoretical Concepts: The Building Blocks of Theory
3. Theoretical Statements Relating Two Variables
4. Theoretical and Operational Linkages
5. Theoretical Statements Relating Three Variables
6. Theoretical Statements Relating Four or More Variables
7. Theoretical Models
8. Creativity and Theory Building
9. Using and Evaluating Theory
Appendix A: Guidelines for Preparing Tables and Figures
Appendix B: Acceptable Levels of Measurement for Various Statistics
About the Authors

I have examined this book and it has been recommended to the Library for the 2016 dissertation proposal reading list. This book will be an excellent primer to assist students with the development of their MSc theses.

Dr Ronald Dyer
Marketing & Operations, Liverpool University
July 6, 2015

Supplement for graduate research methods class.

Dr Steven Giles
Communication Dept, Wake Forest University
March 18, 2013

Well-organized and useful way to present theory construction to my PhD students. The communication-related examples were genral enough that students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines could understand them.

Dr Nancy McGehee
Hospitality Tourism Mgmt Dept, Virginia Polytechnic Institution / State University
October 4, 2010
Key features
  • A unique, authoritative guide from a theory's genesis, to its dissemination, and through its evaluation.
  • A stand-alone text for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in communication theory.
  • Sophisticated-but-readable analysis of subject matter presented by internationally known leaders in the field of communication methodology.

Sage College Publishing

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This title is also available on SAGE Knowledge, the ultimate social sciences online library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.

This title is also available on SAGE Research Methods, the ultimate digital methods library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.