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Thoeryland is an attempt to gather all theories that could help expand our understanding about human behavior.

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What is theory?

Theories put phenomena into meaningful systems. A theory simplifies and explains a complex real-world phenomenon. A good theory not only describes the who, what, and where of a phenomenon being investigated, but also explains the how, when, and why it occurs (Whetten 1989). A theory is an explanation of relationships among concepts or events within a set of boundary conditions. The bellow figure is a diagram of the core components in this definition of a theory (Bacharach 1989). These components include terms (concepts, constructs, variables, or events), relationships among terms (propositions and hypothesis), assumptions (boundary conditions within which these relationships hold in time, space, and value contexts), and explanations (arguments that provide reasons for the expected relationships) (Van de Ven 2007).


Following Kaplan (1964), the meanings of the following terms are often distinguished by their levels of abstraction (Van de Ven 2007):

  • Theoretical Concepts: An abstract term that is semantically defined by its association or usage with other terms that are not directly observable.
    • For example, at the most abstract conceptual level an organization’s social structure might be defined as the formal (not informal) configuration of roles and authority relationships existing among participants within (not outside of) an organization. A role refers to the expected set of behaviors of a person occupying an organizational position, and authority refers to the formally prescribed power relationships among roles in an organization.
  • Theoretical Constructs: A middle-range term that references constitutive components of a concept, but the component parts are not directly observable.
    • For example, at a construct level, organizational social structure might be analytically separated into three components of authority relationships among roles: (1) centralization of decision making authority; (2) formalization of rules, policies, and procedures; and (3) complexity, or the number and interdependence of role relationships.
  • Observable Variables or Events: An operational term that speciWes the activities or operations necessary to measure it.
    • For example, at a concrete level, the formalization of rules (one construct of the social structure concept) might be observed by measuring the number and specificity of rules in job manuals for various role positions in the organization.


Concepts and Constructs

Basic Definitions