How to Build Social Science Theories

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Pamela J. Shoemaker, James W. Tankard, Dominic L. Lasorsa
SAGE Publications, 2004 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 222 pages
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As straightforward as its title, How to Build Social Science Theories sidesteps the well-traveled road of theoretical examination by demonstrating how new theories originate and how they are elaborated. Essential reading for students of social science research, this book traces theories from their most rudimentary building blocks (terminology and definitions) through multivariable theoretical statements, models, the role of creativity in theory building, and how theories are used and evaluated. Authors Pamela J. Shoemaker, James William Tankard, Jr., and Dominic L. Lasorsa intend to improve research in many areas of the social sciences by making research more theory-based and theory-oriented.

The book begins with a discussion of concepts and their theoretical and operational definitions. It then proceeds to theoretical statements, including hypotheses, assumptions, and propositions.  Theoretical statements need theoretical linkages and operational linkages; this discussion begins with bivariate relationships, as well as three-variable, four-variable, and further multivariate relationships.  The authors also devote chapters to the creative component of theory-building and how to evaluate theories.

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About the author (2004)

Pamela Shoemaker (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1982) is the John Ben Snow Professor, an endowed research chair at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is the author of Gatekeeping (Sage, 1991) and Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content (with Stephen D. Reese, Longman Publishers, 1996). As an internationally known scholar, Pamela is a past president (1995-1996) of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) and serves or has served on the editorial boards of many major journals in the mass communications field.

James W. Tankard, Jr., is the Jesse H. Jones Professor in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He was born in Newport News, Va. He attended Virginia Tech, where he was co-editor of the student newspaper and received a B.S. in General Science. He enrolled at the University of North Carolina, where he received a master’s of journalism degree. He went to Stanford University, where he received a Ph.D. in communication. He has worked for The Associated Press in Charlotte, N.C., and for The Raleigh Times as a county government reporter. He has also held summer jobs and other short-term positions with the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, the United States Information Agency, and the Lampasas (Texas) Dispatch and Record. He has taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Temple University, and the University of Texas at Austin. He taught one of the first classes in the Senior Fellows program, the honors program within the College of Communication at the University of Texas. He served for six years as the editor of Journalism Monographs. He is the author of The Statistical Pioneers and the co-author of Basic News Reporting (with Michael Ryan) and the co-author of Communication Theories (with Werner Severin). The latter is in its fifth edition and has been translated into five languages. He is married to Elaine Fuller Tankard, and they have three daughters—Amy, Jessica, and Margaret. He enjoys traveling hiking, and songwriting, and is a member of the Austin Songwriters Group.

Dominic L. Lasorsa is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from St. Bonaventure University, a master of arts degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a doctor of philosophy degree in communication from Stanford University.

In college, Lasorsa served as editor-in-chief of his school newspaper, The Bonaventure, and he worked at the Suffolk (N.Y.) Sun as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Editing Intern. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Air Force where he served as a radio communications specialist and a curriculum development specialist. He then worked as a reporter and editor at the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle and the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. Before beginning his academic career, Lasorsa served as editor-in-chief of the Marble Falls (Texas) Highlander.

Lasorsa studies and teaches communication theory and methods, focusing on political communication and media effects.

He has published articles in numerous books, journals and other publications. His works have appeared in the Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications, the Historical Dictionary of Political Communication in the United States, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, the Journal of Communication, the Journal of Media Economics, the Journal of Reading, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journalism Studies, and the Newspaper Research Journal.

Lasorsa was a co-author of the three-volume National Television Violence Study.

With his partner, Richard Scroggins, and their dog, Boundary, Lasorsa lives in Spicewood, Texas, halfway between Austin and Marble Falls.

Lasorsa was a co-author of the three-volume National Television Violence Study.

With his partner, Richard Scroggins, and their dog, Boundary, Lasorsa lives in Spicewood, Texas, halfway between Austin and Marble Falls.

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