chapter  3
10 Pages

The place of theory

Scientific theory is not 'hunch' or an unattached idea, although the hunch and the unattached idea may be the beginning of a theory, Theory often starts from fact, providing a means for integrating items of information and assisting towards further progress by making a more general level of explanation possible. The construction of scientific theory is, perhaps, the art of science. But while the origination of the idea, the tying together of the facts, the forward leap ofthe imagination, are important art forms, the art form must be restricted within the medium of the method of science. In the concepts of social action, and even of legislation, are to be found implicit theories, or parts of theories. The perception of the 'needs' of clients on the part of social workers implies a theoretical framework. The setting down of questions in sample inquiry or census implies some basis of theory because the questions asked are not random selections of all the questions that could possibly be asked. Latent, incomplete, and unsatisfactory as scientific theories as some of these may be, some may have potential for development, reformulation, or amplification and thus prove useful tools of the scientific method. Others, if they were more completely stated, might be proved to be unsustainable in the light of evidence. The latter should be cleared out of the way to make room for advance. Some theories of the causes of crime will be examined in this chapter, mainly to test whether they are good or bad theories - whether they fulfil the function of a theory - not whether they are true or false.