What is a Theory

What is theory? Leave the question we had about theory.


The notion and term of theory are necessary components of any discipline that is scholarly or scientific. Theory can be described or defined as a statement of relations among concepts within a set of boundary assumptions and constraints (Bacharach,1989). However, theory as it applies to doctoral dissertations is viewed as concepts and principles that explain a certain phenomenon. This theory provides answers to the questions of “why” or “how” something occurs. In addition to the “why” or “how”, theory provides guidelines in the prediction of actions and/or behaviors. Theory in doctoral dissertation sets the foundation for describing the research project, and prepares the reader for what is to be expected. Weick (1995) noted most theories of organizational studies consist of approximations; therefore, theory can exist in many forms because it is a continuum.

Theory in doctoral studies should include theoretical framework, which is a broad theory based on explanation. Theory within a dissertation responds to the research problem, frames the summary of the research, and provides consequences of the research. Data presented in doctoral studies are not considered theory, diagrams are not theory, nor are standalone hypotheses (Weick, 1995). The process of theorizing consists of activities like abstracting, generalizing, relating, selecting, explaining, synthesizing, and idealizing (Weick,1995). These activities produce reference lists, data, variables, diagrams, and hypotheses, which serves as the backbone of summarizing (Weick,1995).

Doctoral studies can do theory verification or theory generation. Most of our dissertations in the Ph.D. program at Trident do theory verification, meaning that we start with a theory, deduce hypotheses from it, and design a study to test these hypotheses. Theory generation dissertations, on the other hand, aim to end up with a theory developed systematically from the data collected.

Please explain how you see the role of theory in dissertations and provide an example of a theory that you think is relevant to your area of research from this wiki:  http://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Main_Page


Bacharach, S. (1989). Organizational Theories: Some Criteria for Evaluation. Academy of Management Review. October 1989; 14-4; ProQuest Central.

Weick, K. (1995). What theory is not, theorizing is. Administrative Science Quarterly, September 1995;40,3;ProQuest Central. 385.

Link: https://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Main_Page

My example of theory is: Organizational learning theory