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Three -izings of research

 

Explanations > Social Research > Design > Three -izings of research

Theorizing | Operationalizing | Generalizing

 

When doing experiments and research, the standard method of operation is to build a parallel theoretical world in which ideas are constructed. These can then be tested back in the real world.

This process goes through three stages, each of which neatly ends with '-izing'.

Theorizing

Given the initial problem or situation, an early stage is a cognitive process of determining potential reasons and relationships for what has been initially observed, albeit in a non-laboratory situation.

In order to do this, we use and build mental models in a simplified, theoretical world in which causes and effects are clear and largely independent of the myriad of other influences.

This is then reduced to questions and hypothesis that can be tested.

 

Real (initial)world:

Observed
event 1

Unknown relationship

Observed
event 2

  Theorized to

  Theorized to

Theoretical
world:

Cause
construct

Cause-effect construct

Effect
construct

 

Operationalizing

Operationalizing the theoretical constructs finds ways via experimental design to test the ideas in the real world. To do this in practice requires a lot of care, for example in stabilizing or neutralizing other variables.

In this design, the theoretical cause is operationalized to program of actions and the expected effect is measured, usually by observation or questioning of some kind.

In this way, the hypothesis is proven and so the theory is validated (or otherwise).

 

Theoretical
world:

Cause
construct

Cause-effect construct

Effect
construct

  Operationalized to
  Operationalized to

Real
(experimental)
world:

Program
(action)

Cause-effect relationship?

Observation
(measured)

 

Generalizing

After analysis and drawing some conclusion about correlation and causation, the theory can then be generalized to application in other real-world situations.

If this generalization is correct then the real power of the theory will appear in its ability to predict what will happen.

Generalizing of conclusions to a wider population can only be done if the experimental sample is truly representative of the population (there is external validity in the experiment).

 

Theoretical
world:

Cause
construct

Cause-effect construct

Effect
construct

  Generalized to
  Generalized to

Real
(extended)
world:

Alternative
situation

Cause-effect relationship

Predicted
outcome

See also

A general research framework

 

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