Comprehensive Doctoral Review Examination
Presented in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Business Administration (or Philosophy)
Kristan L. Sears
Criminal Justice Administration
School of Business and Technology Management
June 28, 2015
In research, theory refers to defined or proposed ways through which researchers are able to make sense of concepts or situations. It is through a theory that researchers are able to present reliable solutions to a problem (Udo-Akang, 2012). Theory can be viewed as a generalization that is used to explain a phenomenon in line with the reasons why it occurs and how it occurs. General statements that are used to explain the cause or effect of a phenomenon are based on specific theoretical frameworks (Stam, 2010). A theory is a powerful tool through which researchers connect events and observations into a single unified web. The relationship among the statements of a theory defines the power of the theory as a basis upon which problems are solved and phenomena are understood (Harlow, 2009). A theory plays an important function in explaining, describing, controlling or predicting phenomena in different or divergent contexts (Udo-Akang, 2012).
The interactions of the various variables of phenomena constitute a theoretical framework. Theory can also be viewed as a system or a group of laws or rules and assumptions that are used to explain the implications of phenomena (Zahra, & Newey, 2009). Theories are used to make inferences or conclusions on a specific issue. The generalizations that are presented within theoretical frameworks often indicate new research observations (Wacker, 1998). These observations are constituted within a theory if they can be tested through scientific inquiry and if they are applicable in predicting or explaining certain phenomena. When knowledge is organized in a systematic manner, it also becomes and constitutes a theory. Theories are specifically applied to solve problems in the real world (Stam, 2010).
Credible or reliable research should be grounded on a specific theory or theories. This means that research should be informed and guided by theoretical views. Research findings can therefore be used to describe or explain a theory or be used to come up with new theories (Udo-Akang, 2012). There are two main types of theories upon which researches are grounded. These are philosophical theories and scientific theories. Philosophical theories are those whose subject matter or what they postulate is based on ideas rather than empirical research data (Harlow, 2009). The truth behind philosophical theories does not require an empirical research process or inquiry in order to be proven. Ethical theories and frameworks are examples of philosophical theories (Corley & Gioia, 2011).
Scientific theory refers to explanations or descriptions of a phenomenon that are based on empirical data or facts. Scientific theories are therefore those that have been proven through observations, surveys or experiments (Zahra, & Newey, 2009). The predictions of a scientific theory must be predictable, accurate and consistent, regardless of the discipline of study or research. The evidence that supports scientific theory is strong because it can be authenticated (Udo-Akang, 2012). Scientific theories are used to define and explain a wide range of concepts, issues and phenomena. The diversity of the concepts that are described by a scientific theory is used to define its level of complexity (Harlow, 2009). As scientific knowledge expands, the accuracy of scientific theory improves. This is due to the role of research in improving theoretical frameworks and making them more evidence based (Wacker, 1998). The real life problems that scientific theory is used to solve include the management or treatment of illnesses and developing new and improved technologies to solve problems with efficiency.
Various concepts are related to theory and its application in research processes. These concepts include model, paradigm, concept and hypothesis. Even though these concepts are related to theory, they can be distinguished from both philosophical and scientific theories (Stam, 2010). A model refers to the tool that is applied in the process of constructing a theory. A model is often presented graphically or in a written format, and it is used to represent the components of a theory or its entirety. Models are not used to explain the components of a theory. Instead, they act as a method or approach through which researchers can explore a theory (Colquitt & Zapata-Phelan, 2007). Models are effectively used to illustrate a theory and its constituent components. Examples of models that are used to explore theories include molecular models and structural models (Gelso, 2006).
A paradigm is a group or framework of worldviews or beliefs, which researchers use to define the boundaries, methods and values upon which their research processes are based (Udo-Akang, 2012). The approach through which a research topic is tackled is therefore part of the research paradigm. Researchers use paradigms