Presentation slides - Social Science Research Commons

Report
Theory Construction
in the Social Sciences
Alan Dennis
[email protected]
November, 2011
Agenda
•
•
•
•
•
What is Theory
What is Interesting Theory
Variance Theory versus Process Theory
A Process for Theory Construction
Testing and Generalizing Theory
What is Theory
You say tomato, I say tomato
Theory is
1. the explanation of a relationship between two
entities: why A influences B
– Why do people adopt new technologies?
2. the explanation of factors underlying a specific
phenomenon
– Why was Windows Vista not widely adopted?
3. the explanation of a phenomenon
– What does it mean to adopt a technology?
Abend, 2008
Theory is
4. the explanation of theoretical meaning
– What is Marxist theory?
5. an overall perspective of understanding
– Technology can be thought of as a system of
people and tools
6. and so on
For the purpose of this Workshop, I’ll use definition 1:
the explanation of a relationship between two entities:
why A influences B
Abend, 2008
Components of a Theory
•
Toulmin
Claim
Reasons
Evidence
Context
Qualifiers
Reservations
What
• the entities that comprise the relationship
• How
• the relationship(s) among the entities
• Why
• the underlying dynamics that link the entities
• Who, Where, When
• the boundary conditions to the relationship
Whetten, 1989
Components of a Theory
What
How
Entity A
Entity B
Because …….
Why
Boundary Conditions
Who,
Where,
When
Whetten, 1989
Big T Theory versus small t theory
• Big T Theories are given a name and usually
have an acronym, written in capital letters
• Little t theories explain a phenomenon within a
smaller domain, often an empirical paper
Dennis and Valacich, 2001
What Theory is Not
•
•
•
•
•
References
Data
Variables and Constructs
Boxes and Arrows
Hypotheses
Theory is a story with a plot that
explains how and why the
characters (entities) interact
with each other
Sutton and Staw, 1995
Is This Theory?
The intention to adopt a new technology has often been
influenced by the perceived usefulness of that technology, the
extent to which the technology can enable the user to
accomplish a needed task. Venkatesh et al. (2003) conducted
several experiments with undergraduate students and found
that perceived usefulness had a significant positive impact on
the intention to adopt. As perceived usefulness increased, so
did the intention to adopt. This relationship has been
observed in many other studies in a variety of experimental
and organization settings (Morris, et al., 2000; Taylor and
Todd, 2005; Venkatesh, et al. 2000). Therefore:
H1: The perceived usefulness of a technology has a direct
positive relationship with the intention to adopt that technology
What is Interesting Theory
Don’t write to get published,
Write to get read and cited
Upending Conventional Wisdom
is Interesting
•
Organization
•
•
Stability
•
•
Something that appears to be good/bad isn’t
Correlation
•
•
Something that appears to be stable/changing isn’t
Evaluation
•
•
Something that appears to be organized/chaotic isn’t
Two things that appear to be independent/related aren’t
Causation
•
The independent variable is the dependent variable
Davis, 1971
Finding the Essence
is Interesting
•
Starting a New Research Stream
•
•
Formal Models
•
•
Studying the uncommon, but not the unnecessary
Translating behavior into math
Simplifying the Complex
•
The definition of a Nobel prize in physics is
“Oh #$@!, why didn’t I think of that.”
Tesser, 2000
Extending Implications
is Interesting
•
Surprising Implications of the Obvious
•
•
Implications of the Bizarre
•
•
When obvious truths leads to unexpected predictions
When “impossible” beliefs are true
Look for paradox
• Scientific discovery does not start with the word “Eureka”;
it starts with the words “That’s funny.”
Tesser, 2000
Which is Interesting?
1. As perceived ease of use of a technology
increases, so does the intention to adopt.
2. As Web sites get slower, Internet users
search for more information.
3. Novice Internet users are more likely than
experienced users to believe that Web sites
presented first in a Google search are
“better” than others in the list.
Variance Theory
versus Process Theory
Every good variance theory has
a good process theory at its core
Variance Theory
• Variance theory strives to understand “What”
• What entities explain the behavior of another entity?
• What explains the variance in an entity’s behavior?
• Variables with different attributes affect other variables
• Often tested with quantitative data
Van de Ven, 2007
Technology Acceptance Model
is a Variance Theory
Perceived
Ease of Use
Perceived
Usefulness
Intention to
Adopt
Process Theory
• Process theory strives to understand “How”
• How do entities explain the behavior of another entity?
• How do events explain the behavior of an entity?
• Entities move through different stages at different times
• Often tested with qualitative data
Van de Ven, 2007
Roger’s Theory of Adoption is a
Process Theory
Knowledge
Persuasion
Decision
Accept
Implementation
Confirmation
Reject
A Process for Theory Construction
How to go from a blank page to a first draft
The Rational Model of Science
Theory
is a waterfall model
Method
Data
Analysis
Conclusions
Martin, 1982
The Garbage Can Model of Science
Data
Method
Theory
Analysis
Conclusions
Mine your Garbage Can
Martin, 1982
Get “The Idea”
Prior Theory in
Other Disciplines
Prior Theory
Prior Empirical
Results
The Idea
A B
Methods
Resources
Personal Experiences
Martin, 1982
Define “The Idea”
What
How
Why
Who, When,
Where
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
The Idea
A B
Title (the idea)
What is the problem or issue (why do I care)?
What are the key concepts (i.e., A and B)?
What is the Research Question (RQ)?
What answer do you expect to the RQ?
Why do you expect that answer?
What are the boundary conditions?
What are the methods?
How will the data answer the RQ?
How do I know what I think until I see what I write?
Van de Ven, 2007
Write “The Idea”
The Idea
A B
Title (1)
Introduction
- Setting (7)
- Problem or Issue (2)
- What this paper does (4&9: RQ and its answer)
Prior Research and Theory
- Prior Research
- Hypothesis development
- Define concepts (3)
- State the relationship (5)
- Explain the relationship (6)
- State the hypothesis (4)
Methods (8)
Refine “The Idea”
Targeted Literature
Search
The Idea
A B
Thought
Experiments
Targeted Literature Search
Like Qualitative Research
• Search for evidence to support or refute your idea
• One hypothesis at a time
• Code articles (at the paragraph level) that
offer evidence about your idea
The Idea
A B
• Both theoretical processes and data
• Review the codings, change the categories, iterate
• Multiple raters (authors) debate the evidence and
change the idea
Thought Experiments
Like Quantitative Research
• Set up tests of your idea like experiments
• Think about the manipulations
• Run the experiment in your mind
• Multiple raters (authors) debate the evidence and
change the idea
The Idea
A B
You Can Change Your “Data”
Literature searches and thought experiments
guide your thinking, not dominate it.
If you don’t like what the literature tells you can
change your “data.”
Assess “The Idea”
•
What’s New?
•
•
So What?
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Is the underlying logic solid?
Well Done?
•
•
Will this change research or practice?
Why So?
•
•
Value-added contribution to current thinking
Is it complete and thorough?
The Idea
A B
Done Well?
•
Is it well written and understandable?
Whetten, 1989
Testing and Generalizing Theory
Every research method
is critically flawed
The 3-Horned Dilemma
Maximum Precision
Lab
Experiments
Surveys
Maximum
Generalizability
Field
Studies
Maximum
Realism
McGrath, 1982
Generalization
Setting 1
Setting 2
X
Generalize
Data
Data
Generalization
Setting 1
Instantiate Theory
Data
Generalize
Setting 2
Instantiate Theory
Draw
Conclusions
Data
Draw
Conclusions
Lee and Baskerville, 2003
Is Science Marketing?
• Publishing a theory is like marketing a new product
• Find the message of the theory
• Its unique selling proposition
• Know the attributes that help sell a theory
• Who developed it (halo effect)
• Its origins (borrowed theory is easier to sell)
• Simplicity sells faster than the complex
• Consistency with current Zeitgeist
• Test market the theory
• With colleagues
• At conferences
Peter and Olson, 1993
Questions
I teach BUS S798 on Theory Development
every Spring Semester, but I’m on sabbatical
this spring, so it won’t be offered.
References
Abend, G. (2008) “The Meaning of They, Sociological Theory, 26:2, 173-199.
Davis, M. S. (1971) “That's Interesting: Toward a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of
Phenomenonology,” Philosophy of Social Science,1, 309-344.
Dennis, A. R., and Valacich, J. S. (2001) “Conducting Experimental Research in Information Systems,
Communications of the AIS, 7:5
Lee, Allen S.; Baskerville, Richard L.,(2003) “Generalizing Generalizability in Information Systems Research,”
Information Systems Research, 14:3, 221-243.
Martin, J. (1982) "A Garbage Can Model of the Research Process," in J.E.McGrath (ed.) Judgment Calls in
Research, Beverly Hills: Sage, pp. 17-39
McGrath, J.E. (1982) "Dilemmatics: The Study of Research Choices and Dilemmas," in J.E. McGrath (ed.)
Judgment Calls in Research, Beverly Hills: Sage, pp. 69-80
Peter, J. P. and J. C. Olson, (1983) "Is Science Marketing?" Journal of Marketing, (47) pp. 111-125.
Sutton, R. I. And Staw, B. M. (1995) "What Theory is Not," Administrative Science Quarterly, (40), pp. 371-384.
Tesser, A. (2000) “Theories and Hypotheses,” in Sternberg, R. J. (ed) Guide to Publishing in the Psychology
Journals, Cambridge University Press, 58-80.
Van de Ven, A. (2007) Engaged Scholarship, Oxford,
Whetten, D.A. (1989) “What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution?” Academy of Management Review, (14),
pp.490-495

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