Tips for scientific work: Theory

2 min read

No academic work comes around treating at least one basic theory. Usually, however, this is not enough: For more extensive works such as bachelor theses and diploma theses or dissertations, the selection of the theory must be justified in detail.

This also means an at least brief treatment of competing approaches. Terms such as “theory thicket” or “theory jungle” are not without reason: theories are hardly clear boundaries, but often consist of different components together. In the rarest of cases, there is a really clear front-line position – no theory will deny its predecessors any probative value, but rather present it as a supplement or improvement. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, there is not “the one, correct” theory; on the contrary, the theories of theories are characterized by a multitude of competing approaches.

The time factor adds an extra layer of confusion: some theories are forgotten, look old-fashioned as times have changed – and then make an astonishing comeback because they find new advocates because they are updated and from then on the term “neo” “Can set. And how exactly can a theory be separated from its practical application, for example in political, social or economic questions? Where does the dividing line between an actual scientific occupation and an appropriation by those writers who want to knock capital out of a concept by writing popular books or presenting themselves as experts?

Unfortunately, there is no sword that could break through the “Gordian knot” of theory. There is no way around a serious confrontation with the important authors and their views.

Even those authors who proclaim a meta-theory or present the different theoretical strands apparently clear, sometimes do this out of the consideration to portray some theories as absurd, other than credible. Not always the scientific objectivity is guaranteed, not always clean work is done. Arguments of the other side are sometimes ignored or distorted. In the study of theories, therefore, a healthy skepticism is appropriate – and before one reads about the work of an author and thus refers to his opinion second hand, one should first read the work itself – even if it was not written in their own language and possibly several centuries old.

A look at the journals helps in current discussions – here, the thematic discussions can be processed in a timely manner, whereby the problems of book publications (long preparation time), but also of the Internet (volatility or lack of scientific standards) are avoided. The publishers of renowned journals offer sufficient space for the counterparties and also guarantee a minimum of scientific fairness.

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