How to Build a Theory: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

Table of contents:

How to Build a Theory: 14 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Build a Theory: 14 Steps (with Pictures)
Anonim

A theory explains why something happens or how various things are related. It is the "how" and the "why" of a "what" that can be observed. To develop a theory, you will have to follow the scientific method. First, make predictions that you can measure about why or how something works. Then, test such predictions with a controlled experiment and objectively conclude whether or not the results confirm the hypotheses.

Steps

Part 1 of 3: Conceiving a Theory

Develop a Theory Step 1
Develop a Theory Step 1

Step 1. Ask yourself “why?

”. Look for patterns between seemingly unrelated things. Explore the root causes behind everyday events and try to predict what will happen next. If you already have the seed of a theory in your head, look at the themes of that idea and try to gather as much information as possible. Write down the “hows,” “why,” and relationships between things as you put them together.

If you don't have a theory or hypothesis in mind, you can start by making connections. If you walk around the world with a curious gaze, an idea may suddenly come to you

Develop a Theory Step 2
Develop a Theory Step 2

Step 2. Develop a theory to explain a law

In general, a scientific law is the description of a phenomenon that is observed. It does not explain why the phenomenon exists or what causes it. The explanation of the phenomenon is called scientific theory. A common misconception is that theories become laws if there is enough research.

For example: Newton's law of gravity was the first to describe mathematically how two different bodies in the universe interacted with each other. However, Newton's law did not explain why gravity existed or how it worked. Only three centuries after Newton, when Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity, scientists began to understand how and why gravity works

Develop a Theory Step 3
Develop a Theory Step 3

Step 3. Research the academic background of your theory

Learn what has already been proven, proven, and disproven. Find out all you can about your topic and see if anyone has asked the same questions before. Learn from the past so you don't make the same mistakes.

  • Use existing knowledge to better understand the topic. This includes existing equations, observations, and theories. If you're dealing with a new phenomenon, try to build on related theories that have already been tested.
  • Find out if someone has already developed your theory. Before going any further, try to reasonably ensure that no one else has explored that topic already. If you can't find anything, feel free to develop your theory. If someone has already made a similar theory, read such work and see if you can elaborate something from there.
Develop a Theory Step 4
Develop a Theory Step 4

Step 4. Build a hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated proposition or conjecture that seeks to explain a set of natural facts or phenomena. Come up with a possible reality that is a logical consequence of your observations: look for patterns and think about what could cause these things to happen. Use an “if then” form: “If (X) is true, then (Y) is true”; or "If (X) is true, then (Y) is false." Formal hypotheses contain an "independent" and a "dependent" variable. The independent variable is a potential cause that can be adjusted and controlled, while the dependent variable is a phenomenon that you observe or measure.

  • If you are going to use the scientific method to develop your theory, then your hypothesis must be measurable. You can't prove a theory without numbers to back it up.
  • Try to create several hypotheses that can explain your observations. Compare those hypotheses. Consider where they overlap and where they separate.
  • Hypothesis example: "If skin cancer is related to ultraviolet light, then people who have a high exposure to it will have a higher frequency of skin cancer." Another example: "If the color change of a leaf is related to temperature, then exposing plants to low temperatures will lead to changes in the color of the leaf."
Develop a Theory Step 5
Develop a Theory Step 5

Step 5. Know that every theory begins as a hypothesis

Be careful not to confuse them. A theory is a well-proven explanation of why a pattern exists, while a hypothesis is just a predicted reason for that pattern. An evidence always supports a theory. However, a hypothesis is only one possible outcome that is suggested and may or may not be true.

Part 2 of 3: Testing Hypotheses

Develop a Theory Step 6
Develop a Theory Step 6

Step 1. Design an experiment

According to the scientific method, your theory must be testable. Develop a way to test whether each hypothesis is true. Make sure you run the test in a controlled environment: try to isolate the event and the proposed cause (the dependent and independent variable) from anything that might complicate the results. Be precise and watch out for external factors.

  • Make sure your experiments can be repeated. In most cases, it is not enough to just prove a hypothesis once. Your classmates should be able to recreate the experiment themselves and get the same results.
  • Have your colleagues or advisers review your testing procedure. Have someone review your work and confirm that your logic is sound. If you work with partners, make sure everyone has input.
Develop a Theory Step 7
Develop a Theory Step 7

Step 2. Seek support

Depending on your field of study, it may be difficult to perform complex experiments without access to certain equipment and resources. Scientific equipment can be expensive and difficult to come by. If you are enrolled in a university, talk to a professor and researcher who may be able to help you.

If you are not in school, consider looking for professors or graduate students from a local university. For example, contact the Physics department if you want to explore a theory of Physics. If you hear that a distant university is doing quite a bit of exciting research in your field, consider emailing them despite the distance

Develop a Theory Step 8
Develop a Theory Step 8

Step 3. Keep accurate records

Again, the experiments must be reproducible: other people must be able to construct a test in the same way that you did and obtain the same result. Keep an accurate record of everything you do on your test. Make sure to keep all the information.

If you are in an academy, you should know that there are files that store the raw information that is collected in the process of scientific research. If other scientists need to find your experiment, they can consult those files or ask for your information. Make sure you can provide all the details

Develop a Theory Step 9
Develop a Theory Step 9

Step 4. Evaluate the results

Check your predictions against each other and with the results of your experiments. Look for patterns. Ask yourself if the results suggest something new and consider if there is something you forgot. Whether or not the data confirm the hypothesis, beware of hidden or “exogenous” variables that may have influenced the results.

Develop a Theory Step 10
Develop a Theory Step 10

Step 5. Establish the certainty

If the results do not support your hypothesis, reject the prediction as incorrect. If you can prove the hypothesis, then the theory will be one step closer to being confirmed. Always document your results in as much detail as possible. If you can't reproduce a test procedure and its results, this will be much less useful.

  • Make sure the results don't change every time you do the experiment. Repeat the tests until you are sure.
  • Many theories are dropped after an experiment disproves them. However, if your new theory explains something that previous theories cannot, then it may be a major scientific advance.

Part 3 of 3: Accepting and Expanding on a Theory

Develop a Theory Step 11
Develop a Theory Step 11

Step 1. Draw a conclusion

Determine if your theory is valid and make sure your experimental results can be repeated. If you accept the theory, you should not be able to disprove it with the tools and information at your disposal. However, don't try to spin your theory as an absolute fact.

Develop a Theory Step 12
Develop a Theory Step 12

Step 2. Share your results

You will probably accumulate quite a lot of information in your search to test your theory. When you are sure that you can repeat your results and that your conclusions are valid, try to state your theory in a way that other people can study and understand. Set your process in a logical order: first, write a “synopsis” that summarizes your theory; then state your hypothesis, the experimental procedure and your results. Try to state your theory on a series of points or arguments. Finally, end the document with an explanation of your conclusions.

  • Explain how you defined your question, the approach you took, and how you tested it. A proper report will take the reader through every relevant thought and action that led to the conclusion.
  • Consider your audience. If you want to share your theory with your colleagues in your field, write a formal document that explains the results. Consider submitting your work to an academic journal. If you want to make your findings available to the general public, try phrasing your theory in something more digestible; for example, a book, article or video.
Develop a Theory Step 13
Develop a Theory Step 13

Step 3. Understand the peer review process

In the scientific community, theories are generally not considered valid until they have been peer reviewed. If you present your findings to an academic journal, another scientist may decide to do a peer review, that is, test and replicate the theory and process that you presented. This will confirm the theory or be left in limbo. If the theory survives the test of time, other scientists might eventually try to expand your idea by applying it to other topics.

Develop a Theory Step 14
Develop a Theory Step 14

Step 4. Build on your theory

Your thought process should not end after you share your theory. In fact, the act of writing down your ideas may force you to consider factors that you ignored. Don't be afraid to follow the tests and revise your theory until you are completely satisfied. This may mean doing more research, more experiments, and more documents. If your theory is broad enough in scope, you may not always be able to fully develop the implications.

Don't be afraid of collaboration. It can be tempting to maintain your intellectual sovereignty; however, you may see your ideas take on new life when you share them with colleagues, friends, and advisors

Popular by topic