Applying Social Science Theories in Research

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Theories in the social sciences are usually created like theories in the hard sciences first by observation and empirical testing and then by drawing educated conclusions. After a series of empirical tests have been conducted and a sufficient body of research has been gathered, it may be possible to devise a theory based on the research. Alternatively, a social scientist might come up with the theory first and then go about observing the world through this theoretical lens. From there, the social scientist can create empirical research designs that test and substantiate the theory. There are therefore inductive and deductive methods of devising theories in the social sciences. The social scientist will observe a behavior or phenomenon and deem it worthy of research. A potential cause-and-effect hypothesis might emerge after an exploration of research questions. For example, a sociologist might notice that people living in one city are more likely to smile than people living in another city and wants to find out whether there are variables that might cause this difference. Some theories will be broader, and are then called paradigms. Paradigms differ from theories in that they are not usually testable directly using empirical methods. However, a research hypothesis can be built from within a paradigm. Social scientists also develop differently depending on whether they are grand or mid-range theories. Grand theories are often created after examining a broad set of data and
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