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All sciences use theory as a tool to explain. It is useful to think of theory as a conceptual model of some aspect of life. We may have a theory of mate selection, or the emergence of capitalist societies, or of criminal behaviour, or of the content of dreams. In each case the theory consists of a set of concepts and their nominal definition, assertions about the relationships between these concepts, assumptions and knowledge claims. Carl Jung's theory of the self, for examples, begins by asserting the key concepts --introversion and extroversion, and the relationship between these two components -- one is dominant and the other subordinate. It assumes that the dominant characteristic will be displayed in behaviour and the subordinate one in our dreams or unconscious. The content of dreams can be explained by bringing Jung's model to the inquiry. In the classic model of how science is conducted, the scientist begins with a theory, deduces a hypothesis about the real world from the theory and then engages in the necessary research to determine if the hypothesis is true or false. In this way science is always about theory testing. See: HYPOTHETICO-DEDUCTIVE MODEL OF SCIENCE / .

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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