Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories

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Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories
Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories

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Introduction to Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories

Theories contribute significantly to the guiding of research/study and organizing and creating sense of findings of a research. This paper is divided into three Parts. Part I focuses on the scholarly views on the nature and types of theories, and offering a comparison and contrast of three scholarly views of what constitutes a theory. Part II focuses on revealing the scholarly literature on the association between research and theory. This part also addresses three through which research contributes to theory. Part III of the paper explains how grounded theory contributes to the reader’s understanding of my research topic. Consequently, this part proceeds to discuss and analyze two controversial areas that are associated with the grounded theory.

Part 1 Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories

Examples of theories include deductive, inductive and grounded theories. Deductive theory is based on reasoning on one or more statements with the aim of reaching a logical conclusion. Inductive theory involves the movement from specific observations to the broader or wider generalizations of assumptions (Cameron, 2013). Grounded theory refers to the method of research/study that can help the researcher develop an assumption on the principle concern of a community or population being investigated, and how the concern can be processed or resolved. This theory can be employed in explaining my research as will be shown in Part III of the paper.

Various opinions exist concerning what constitutes a theory. Some researchers define theory as the association/relationship between variables, while other refers to theory as an abstract (Gelso, 2006). Other researchers such as Wacker refer to theory as a trial and error, as opposed to a systematic examination/investigation. Moreover, other authors argue that a theory reveals clearly how it is measured. As a framework for evaluation, a theory should manage to address all the primary questions that a researcher aims at answering such as what, who, where, why and when. In relation to this, it can be argues that the measurable or quantifiable dimensions of a theory arises from data and research (Amseus, 2014). Some of the measurable aspects of theory are the relationship between describable and observable data. According to Wacker, a theory refers to the association among units that can be observed in an empirical manner. Besides, this scholar adds that as sound theory aims at explaining why and how certain associations lead to certain events/phenomenon (Wacker, 1999). Some researchers such as Harlow argue that a theory is not a global or a fixed notion, but tends to evoke series of constructs. Furthermore, this researcher argues that a theory can be employed in determining a law. Modern psychology takes into consideration a broad range of use of the term theory. These uses are aligned in different levels in relation to how the term is employed in scientific explanation (Stam, 2010). As such, the establishment of theory within psychology relates directly to the manner in which methods have prepared and dispersed. Taking these aspects into consideration, it can be noted that theory differs from elements such as concept, model, paradigm and hypothesis.

A concept refers to the components or constituents of the thought, while a model refers to a composition of concepts that are employed in making individuals comprehend certain phenomena. On the other hand, a paradigm refers to a framework that contains all the accepted views concerning a given topic, the format of the directions that should be adopted by a research and how the research should be executed (Mercer, 2014). Hypothesis refers to an informed or educated guess concerning the ways in which things work. It can also refer to the tentative/uncertain statement about the association between two variables.

Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories comparison and Contrast of three Views of what constitutes a Theory

The views presented by researchers about what constitutes a theory have similarities and differences. Taking this aspect into consideration, three views that can be compared and contrasted are reductionism, realism and instrumentalism. According to the view of reductionism, theories are considered reducible to observables. Realism considers theories as statements about events that exist in the real sense (Mayer, 2013). On the other hand, instrumentalism argues that theories are employed as tools of executing operation or performing thing in the world.

The three views on theory contribute significantly to the establishment of theory in the scientific discipline. Reductionism and determinism can be employed in the comprehension of theory development within psychology (Stam, 2010). As a view on theory, reductionism targeted at observable vents/phenomena. This view strives to explain and describe events and to distinguish whether such phenomena are physical or not. In addition, this view focuses on explaining and describing whether events can be accounted for within the context/realm of scientific theory or not.

Being connected to reductionism, determinism is perceived as an account of results of theories. In relation to this, determinism argues that for a given set of conditions, there exists a single outcome (Stam, 2010). As such, determinism and reductionism act a perfect reflection of methods/ways of delimiting the description of events or phenomena. According to instrumentalism, a theory refers to a tool that can be employed in comprehending the world. This view argues that the significance of a theory is founded on how effective it is to predict an event or phenomenon, as opposed to how such a theory illustrates objective reality.

While the view of instrumentalism focuses on events that exist, the view of realism focuses on finding or identifying deliverables beyond what can be observed, and establishing the knowledge that is applicable beyond a theory despite a theory being employed in grounding knowledge. Moreover, realism argues that in a situation in which there exist several explanations for a single event or phenomenon, only one out of the various theories and hypotheses can be true. In relation to the view of scientific realism, characteristics such as warfare, differentiation, parsimony and theoretical specifications are perceived as components of good theory (Gelso, 2006). Contrary to the realism view, instrumentalism focuses on the presentation of an antirealism view. Instrumentalism considers theories as devices, instruments or tools that allow scientists to move from a set of statements to observations that are predictable. In addition, while the view of realism focuses on theory validation to a greater extent, instrumentalism focuses on the aspect of discovery. Instrumentalism perceives a good theory as an outcome or product of integration. On the other hand, realism focuses on the aspect of precision.

Instrumentalism, realism and reductionism argue that a theory should be focus on addressing significant practical issues to clarify complex events or phenomena. As a result, the three views on theories have been integrated in several ways within the psychological theory (Naor & Coman, 2013). Among the three views, both instrumentalism and scientific realism have impacted significantly on mainstreaming psychological discipline theory. The integration of the two views in the psychological theory resulted from the need to establish valid theories such as those witnessed in the psychological discipline and science. In relation to this, the discipline of psychology has adapted characteristics that are promoted as components of good psychology such as delimitation, internal consistency and integration (Gelso, 2006). Within the realm of psychology discipline, instrumentalism happens to be more process-driven, and aims at identifying significant theoretical systems/ or frameworks for localized phenomena. Recently, psychology advocated for the adoption of views related to non-reductive materialism. In relation to this, materialism presents a platform on which some features or elements cannot be reduced to physical properties (Harlow, 2009). Examples of such elements include functional, informational, cultural, mental and linguistic features. In psychology, theory has embraced the need to provide an explanation for unobservable events such as cultural, mental and functional elements among others.

Part 2 Scholarly Literature on the Relationship between Research and Theory

The association/relationship between research and theory can be explained by focusing on the various research designs that are employed in developing different types of theories. As mentioned in part 1, there exist three types of theories that include descriptive, explanatory and relational theories. There exists a robust relationship between descriptive research and descriptive theory. Descriptive theories focus on the classification of specific characteristics or dimensions of groups, individuals, events or situations (Mercer, 2014). This goal is accomplishing by the summarization of the commonalities existing in discrete observations. As such, these theories often state the aspect of what is? Besides, these theories are often required when there is inadequate knowledge about the phenomenon being investigated.

There are two categories/forms of descriptive theories, which include classification and naming. A classification theory is more elaborate than the naming theory. This theory states that the characteristic or dimensions of a certain phenomenon are interrelated in a structural manner. These dimensions may be overlapping, mutually exclusive, sequential or hierarchical. As such classification theories are often known as taxonomies or typologies (Cameron, 2013). On the other hand, a naming theory refers to the description of the characteristics or dimensions of some phenomenon.

Descriptive theories are created and tested using descriptive research. This form is also known as exploratory research, and it is aimed at answering questions like:

What is this?

What are the existing features of the real world in relation to the mentioned question? Descriptive research/study may or may not employ an empirical method. Non-empirical mechanisms include historic and philosophic inquiries (Mercer, 2014). Historic research is targeted at describing an event/phenomenon that happened at an earlier time. On the other side, philosophic inquiry classifies and describes an event/phenomenon via a critical discussion.

An example of descriptive research that employs empirical methods is the observation of an event its natural setting. In these forms of research, data are often collected by non-participant or participant observation. Besides, data can be gathered by questionnaires, structured interview schedules or open-ended interviews. The raw data collected is a descriptive research may be quantitative or qualitative (Cameron, 2013). The analysis of qualitative research may be conducted using content analysis. This technique is employed in sorting data into categories that may appear during analysis. It can also be employed in sorting data into priori categories. Quantitative data are evaluated using various parametric and non-parametric measures of variability and central tendency.

Empirical descriptive research covers case studies, phenomenological studies, ethnographies, grounded theories and surveys. Case studies are systematic and intensive investigations of several factors for a few individuals, community or group. Phenomenological studies produce descriptions of human experience. Here, Investigators often collect data without priori identification of terms or preconceived expectations. As such, emphasis is place on comprehending people’s subjective and cognitive perceptions, and how such perceptions impact on behavior (Cameron, 2013). Surveys yield accurate and factual descriptions of intact events/phenomena. In the real, sense surveys employed structured instruments in gathering data. However, they may also takes into consideration the use of open-ended questions in such instruments.

There also exists a robust relationship between correlational research and relational theory. Relational theories focus on the specification of the relations that exist between dimensions/characteristics of situations, events, groups and individuals. These theories focus on explaining how parts of events relate to one another. As such, these theories can be established after the identification of the essential dimensions of an event. Relational theories are established by correlational research (Mayer, 2013). This form of research often focuses on answering questions like:

What is taking place here?

At what level do two dimensions tend to happen together?

Correlational studies employ empirical method. Such studies always need the measurement of the dimension of events in their natural settings. Surveys and interviews are the common methods employed in these studies. The collection of data is often accomplished by self-report measures and non-participant observation. Contrary to descriptive study, correlational research often employs instruments such as fixed-choice observation rating scales, checklists and standardized questionnaires. The accomplishment of this goal is often enhanced by the fact that characteristics or dimensions are known (Mercer, 2014). These techniques always yield quantitative and qualitative data. Since data must be attached to un-interpreted data to allow for the calculation of correlation coefficients, qualitative data should be categorized, and numbers assigned to those categories.

Experimental research and explanatory theory have a strong relationship. Explanatory theories supersede relational statements. As such, they focus on the prediction of associations existing between dimensions of phenomena. They also aim at predicting the dimensions of differences between groups. Explanatory theories produced and examined by experimental research. This form study always asks questions like:

What will occur if…?

Is treatment B different from treatment C?

Experimental study employs empirical mechanisms of experimentation (Bradbury-Jones & Caroline, 2014). It takes into consideration the manipulation of some events to determine its impacts on some characteristics or dimensions of another phenomenon/event. Experimentation consists of several different designs with the inclusion of pre-experiments like pretest-posttest-no control group design.

Three Ways through which Research (Quantitative and Qualitative) Contributes to Theory

Ways through which research contribute to the development of a theory are manifested in the observations, research design, case studies and hypothesis testing. Research contributes to the development of the theory via observations. In research, observations impact significantly on theories. Observations can lead to the changing of a theory when the events under observations are not in line with the theory applied in the research. Moreover, observation can lead to the confirmation of a theory in case the events being investigated are in line with theory on which the research is established or founded (Harlow, 2009). Theories often change to match the observations that are being investigated. In this way, it can be argued that a research has a greater impact on theory than the impact the theory can have on it. Research serves to influence the theory, as opposed to the theory influencing the research. In order for researchers to accomplish their objectives, they should engage in an active quality control. Besides, researchers should ensure that they monitor the relationship between observations and theory so that they can manage to tell whether the two elements match or not. In a case observations and theory do not match, researchers should ensure that they adjust the theories on which their research is founded.  One of the principle aims of researcher is to ensure that observations and theory correlate. This goal can be accomplished verifying observations followed by the determination of whether the verified observations match the selected theory. The success of a research is determined by its ability to prove or disapprove a theory. Researchers should note that theories are subject to delimitation. In relation to this, a theory can be delimited based on the aspects or dimensions of the issue being investigated (Harlow, 2009). For instance, the type of the study that has been conducted in reference to the problem under investigation can lead to the delimitation of a theory.

Research also contributes to the development of a theory via research design. Taking into consideration the research’s theory driven aspect, it can be noted that research can help in the construction of a theory. A research design affects several factors such as the association of theory construction, results of empirically based research and observed. Some of the methods and research designs that are employed in psychology are qualitative, quantitative, case study and mixed methods (Levis & Ellis, 2006). Every method of research is composed of many different tools, which can be applied in research questions. As such, the methodology of a study should focus on addressing aspects of how, where, why, when and what.

Inductive and deductive research methods determine the approach to be adopted for a research, research question’s data and research goal (Mercer, 2014). It is advisable that researchers employ mixed methods when executing their activities as such an approach ensures that they draw suitable strategies from the two methods (inductive and deductive research). These methods are vital in ensuring that researchers draw appropriate strategies from them.

Case study research and hypothesis testing contributes significantly to the establishment of a theory. While testing for hypothesis takes into consideration the testing of a single statement/account from theory against various observations, case study research focuses on the comparison of several statements to observations. In relation to this, case study research points out the matching of an observation to theory, and how such a theory can predict aspects of certain cases in an adequate manner (Mayer, 2013). Furthermore, case study research relies on many contacts between each theory and each case.

Case study research plays a vital role in the establishment of a theory. Contributions from case studies often provide new data. In established areas, case study research often contributes to incremental advances/developments in the works of previous theorists (Naor & Coman, 2013). Novel evidence that is obtained from case studies can offer theoretical insights, which can be employed in confirming or denying existing theory. In this manner, theoretical contributions establish the knowledge foundation of disciplines.

Grounded theory has been noted to relate the initial question to the course of doing research. Grounded theory refers to an iterative course in which the establishment of the theory and data gathering build on each other. Research always starts with the raising of questions that do not remain static or confine, but help in yielding the research. As such, researchers often operate from a center of theoretical concepts that are employed as baseline in adjusting and asking questions (Levis &Levis, 2006). Thus, research contributes to the establishment of a theory in a direct manner via the creation of linkages between data.

Part 3

How the Grounded Theory adds to the Reader’s Understanding of my Research Topic

Grounded theory can contribute to the reader’s understanding of my research in several ways. First, this theory ensures that the readers develop a deep understanding of the main concern of the issue being investigated in my study (Higginbottom & Lauridsen, 2014).  For example, this theory enables the reader comprehend the effect that the prevailing construction worker wage has on the costs of constructions of affordable housing for seniors within California in relation to the workers’ wage rate of market construction. Here, the principle concern is the effects of the prevailing construction worker wage on the expenses of affordable housing for seniors. Besides, the theory will also help readers comprehend or relate how Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market, which is the base of capitalism, can help determine the market rate compensation that should be paid to construction workers, as opposed to the existing wage (Bradbury-Jones & Caroline, 2014). Second, this theory ensures that the reader develops a deep understating on how the process of data collection was achieved in my study (Cameron, 2013). My study is a qualitative research. As such, the reader can manage to comprehend the method employed in gathering data, which in turn help the reader understand the data evaluation mechanisms employed in accomplishing the objectives of the study. This theory offers a guideline on how data analysis is executed by the researcher, which helps in enhancing the reader’s understanding of the entire data analysis process (Mayer, 2013). Third, grounded theory ensures that the reader understands the structures of the existing construction worker wage via constant process of comparing it to affordable housing for seniors. This process enables the reader to understand the effects that result from the relationship between the two variables (Mello & Flint, 2009). As such, the use of grounded theory in my researcher is significant in eliminating confusions or problems that readers may encounter as they attempt to understand my research.

 Discussion and Analysis of Two Controversial Areas associated with the Grounded Theory

Grounded theory’s approach to methodology happens to face controversy. Researchers who are new to the use of this theory can experience problems in comprehending various elements associated with this approach to research methodology (Amsteus, 2014).  Besides, the existence of various versions concerning the theory’s approach to methodology can prove daunting to researchers who are new to this theory. Learning and comprehending the differences existing between the grounded theory’s methodologies can be equated to the learning of an individual’s research philosophy, which is always the determining factor in the selection of a methodology. The problem associated with learning various methodologies associated with this theory arises from the fact that terminologies employed in it always sound similar to the new researcher (Mercer, 2014). However, this problem can be addressed when such a researcher focuses on the exploration of the differences existing between such terminologies. One of the methods that researchers can employ in addressing this problem is focusing on comprehending their philosophies. Such an undertaking is vital in ensuring that researchers focus on their objectives. Moreover, another controversial area surrounding the grounded theory is the element of axial coding (Rintala, Paavilainen & Astedt-Kurki, 2014). Addressing this problem requires the researcher not to focus on the approaches to grounded theory as either wrong or right. Instead, the researcher should focus on selecting an approach that fits the goal of his or her study. This approach is significant in ensuring that the researcher avoids facing the confusions that are associated with perceiving the two aspects (grounded theory and axial coding) as bang different (Green, 2014). Focusing on the two approaches as being different often results in the researcher developing a negative attitude towards the use of such a theory in meeting his or her research objectives (Naor & Coman, 2013). As a result, a researcher may face problems comprehending how the tow aspects can be integrated to help the research attain the study’s goals.

Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories Conclusion

Some examples of theories that can be employed in guiding research are deductive, grounded and inductive theories. Various views exist concerning theories. Some researchers such as Gelso (2006) consider theory as relationship between variables, while others such as Wacker consider it trial and error. Three views on theory are reductionism, realism and instrumentalism. Some of the ways through which research contributes to theory are manifested in research design, hypothesis testing, case studies and observations. In relation to this, the grounded theory enables the reader to comprehend the data analysis and data collection process of my research. It also enables the reader to gain an in-depth comprehension of the issue being investigated by engaging in a continuous process of comparing various issues being raised in the study. However, this theory presents problems to new researchers who employ this approach in their study as its methodology involves various approaches.

Scholarly Views on Nature and Types of Theories References

Amsteus, N. (2014). The Validity of Divergent Grounded Theory Method. International Journal of Qualitative Method, 13(1) 71-87.

Bradbury-Jones, C & Caroline, T. (2014). Applying Social Impact Assessment to Nursing Research. Nursing Standard, 28(48), 45-49.

Cameron, R. (2013). Lessons From the Field: Applying the Good Reporting of a Mixed Methods Study (GRAMMS) Framework. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 11(2), 53-64.

Gelso, C. (2006). Applying Theories to Research: The Interplay of Theory and Research in Science. In Leong, F.T., Austin, J.T. (Eds), The Psychology Research Handbook (pp.455-465). Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publications.

Green, E. (2014). Use of Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks in Qualitative Research. Nurse Researcher, 21(6) 34-38

Harlow, E. (2009). Contribution, Theretical. In Mills , A, Durepos, G., & Wiebe, E.(Eds), Encyclopedia of Case Study Research(pp.237-239), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Higginbottom, G & Lauridsen, I. (2014). The Roots and Development of Constructivist Grounded Theory. Nurse Researcher, 21(5), 8-13.

Mayer, J. (2013). Integrating Theories in AMJ Articles. Academy of Management Journal, 56(4) 917-922.

Mercer, H. (2014). Theory-Driven Evaluation in School Psychology Intervention Research: 2007-2012. School Psychology Review, 43(2), 119-131.

Mello, J., & Flint, J. (2009). A Refined View of Grounded Theory and its Applications to Logistics. Journals of Business Logistics, 30(1) 107-125

Naor, M & Coman, A. (2013). Theory of Constraints: Is it a Theory and Good One? International Journal of Production Research, 51(2), 542-554.

Levy, Y & Ellis, J. (2006). A System Approach to Conduct an Effective Literature Review in Support of Information Systems Research. Informing Science Journal 9(1) 181-212

Rintala, T; Paavilainen, E., & Astedt-Kurki, P. (2014). Challenges in Combining Different Data Set During Analysis When Using Grounded Theory. Nurse Researcher, 21(5) 14-18.

Stam, H. (2000). Theory. In Salkind, N(Ed), Encyclopedia of Research Design (1449).

Wacker, J. (1999). A Definition of Theory: Research Guidelines For Different Theory-Building Research Methods in Operations Management. Journal of Operations Management, 16(4) 361-385.


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