Theory Building Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 September 2016

Theory Building

Some of the theories used to explain different aspects of organizational management include Maslow’s Hierarchical Theory of Needs and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory. According to Maslow’s theory physiological needs supervene psychological needs. Maslow’s theory states that certain needs which are inborn internal motivations influence the decisions made by individuals (Landy & Conte, 2006, p.335).

His theory allowed for the environment to play a significant role in motivated behavior by suggesting that once a set of needs are satisfied by environmental forces, the next higher needs are activated in an individual. As opposed to Maslow’s theory, Freud places emphasis on the role of an individual’s mind [specifically his unconscious mind] in the determination of an individual’s motivation. Within Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory, an individual’s unconscious desires determine his motivations. Both theories can be used to explain the motivations behind individual’s actions and decisions within the field of business.

How do propositions and hypotheses differ?

According to Zikmund (1988) a proposition is “a statement concerned with the relationship among concepts. It is an assertion of a universal connection between events that have certain properties” (p. 44). As opposed to this, a hypothesis is “an unproven proposition or supposition that tentatively explains certain facts or phenomena.

It is a proposition that is empirically testable” (Zikmund, 1988, p.45). The main difference between the two may be traced to the investigatory use of a hypothesis as the hypothesis is used to investigate and test a claim. It is important to note that the hypothesis itself is a proposition; the difference of a hypothesis from other propositions merely lies in its use to verify or falsify a claim. Given this context one might thereby state that although a hypothesis is a proposition not all propositions are hypotheses.

How do concepts differ from variables?

 According to Zikmund (1988) a concept refers to a “generalized idea about a class of objects, attributes, occurrences, or process that have been given a name” (p. 41). As opposed to this, a variable is “a concept whose value changes from case to case” (Macionis & Plummer, 2005, p.51). Consider for example the concept ‘price’ wherein ‘price’ refers to the value of an object.

Within the context of the department store, the ‘price’ of different objects differ from each other due to the differences of the factors used in determining the value of an object. In addition to this although some concepts may correspond to a set of empirical measures, not all concepts do as opposed to variables that may correspond to two or more values.

Comment on this statement: “There is nothing as practical as a good theory.”

A theory refers to a “coherent set of general propositions used to explain the apparent relationships among certain observed phenomena” (Zikmund, 1988, p.41). Theories are important as they provide a framework for the analysis of a particular event. A theory may thereby provide an individual with the necessary assumptions that may trace the reason for the occurrence of a particular event. In a sense, one might state that it provides an individual with the causal explanation on how an event q was caused by an event p.

It is necessary however that the theory used for the explanation is a good theory. A good theory here refers to a theory whose “empirical content is less than or equal to the ‘logical content’” (Boland, 1989, p.56). Such is the characteristic of a good theory since it ensures that the theory is empirically verifiable and hence testable. Given this context, there is nothing as practical as a good theory since it ensures that one’s explanations for the occurrence of a particular event is continuously verifiable and hence testable and thereby easily proven to be valid easily.

The 17th-century Dutch philosopher Benedict Spinoza said, “If the facts conflict with a theory, either the theory must be changed or the facts.”

According to Spinoza, when facts conflict with a theory there is a necessity to either change the theory or change the facts in order to ensure the theory’s validity. A theory is either formulated through the use of inductive reasoning or deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning refers to “the logical process of deriving a conclusion about a specific instance based on a known general premise or something known to be true” (Zikmund, 1988, p. 46).

Inductive reasoning, on the other hand, refers to the “the logical process of establishing a general proposition on the basis of observation of particular facts” (Zikmund, 1988, p.47). In the case of a theory formulated using a deductive argument, there is a need to assess the validity of propositions [facts] in order to ensure the validity and soundness of the argument. In the case of inductive arguments, the change or addition of a proposition [facts] changes the conclusion thereby leading to the change of the theory itself.

Find another definition of theory. How is the definition you found similar to this book’s definition? How is it different?

Kerlinger (1979) defines a theory as “a set of interrelated constructs (variables), definitions, and propositions that presents a systematic view of phenomenon by specifying relations among variables, with the purpose of explaining natural phenomena” (qtd in Creswell, 2002, p. 120). As opposed to this Zikmund (1988) defines a theory as a “coherent set of general propositions used to explain the apparent relationships among certain observed phenomena” (p.41).

As can be seen above, both definitions note that a theory is composed of more abstract components in the form of propositions wherein each proposition is interrelated in such a way that when combined together they formulate one coherent and systematic worldview. The difference of Kerlinger’s definition however may be traced to his addition of what a theory is trying to explain that being ‘natural phenomena’. Hence, Zikmund’s definition may be seen as presenting a broad definition of a theory whereas Kerlinger narrows his definition by stating what a theory refers to.


Boland, L. (1989). The Methodology of Economic Model Building: Methodology After Samuelson. London: Routledge.

Creswell, J. (2002). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches. London: SAGE.

Landy, F. & J. Conte. (2006). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. London: Routledge.

Macionis, J. & K. Plummer. (2005). Sociology: A Global Introduction. Np: Pearson.

Zikmund, W. (1988). Business Research Methods. California: University of California Press.

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