The Importance of Theory in Research Methodology

Agbonkhese Shaka Moses, Ambrose Alli University

While many people are intimidated at their very first encounter with theory, it is used almost on a daily basis. You may be one who believes that theory is abstract and has no fundamental basis in the real world. However, whether you realise it or not, you use theory almost all the time. We all make assumptions and generalisations about certain things we are in contact with daily; thus we theorise.

Theories are logical constructions that explain natural phenomena. They are not in themselves always directly observable, but can be supported or refuted by empirical findings. Theory and empirical research are connected by means of hypotheses, which are testable propositions that are logically derived from theories. The testable part is very important because scientific hypotheses must be capable of being accepted or rejected.

Theories can be simple or complex; it depends on how relationships are made in formulating them. Theory can be fun, depending on how it is applied. If you spend the day in a shopping mall you can see how much fund theory can be. So why study theory? The truth of the matter is, we need theory inorder to function, in order to better understand the world around us. Life would be pretty dull if we couldn't generalise or make assumptions about people and things. Most of our daily theories tend to be illogical and are a product of our own selective observation. Often we perceive what we want to perceive. Human behaviour tends to be very complex, almost abstract. Theories on crime causation for example are complex, too. Most theories for example on criminal behaviour are from research, both past and present, which reflects both systematic observation and very careful logic. Theories not only provide a framework for us to interpret the meanings of observed patterns but they help us to determine when these patterns are meaningful and when they are not.

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Updated 05/20/2006