Making a theoretical contribution


======= Date Modified 06 Jun 2012 02:54:39 =======
I wondered if anyone had any ideas about what consitutes a theoretical contribution as opposed to an empirical contribution in the social sciences? I.e. what counts as a theoretical contribution in the Discussion chapter... Are theoretical contributions often associated with diagrams...? How do you move from making an empirical contribution to a theoretical one?

Advice available on writing good Discussion chapters seems rare to me, compared to advice available on writing up earlier chapters of the thesis.


I guess it depends on how 'generalisable' your empirical findings are. For example, Maslow must have seen that so many people experienced a hierarchy within their needs that he could make a model out of their experience that was applicable to virtually all - a theory of sorts, albeit in model form.
My findings mean that I can contribute to overall knowledge, but I don't know that my findings apply to all people, so they remain a contribution rather than a theory.
My experience (education) is that creating a model from your results is A Good Move, so if it's possible to somehow schematise what you have found then you can create 'Nearlyfinished's Model of XYZ'.
Hope this helps!


Hi Mog

Yes that is a good help, thanks. My findings are qualitative with all the related difficulties of talking about generalisability, but I've found Silverman has some good suggestions for how to make the case for generalisability in qualitative research. I did think I had picked out ways in which I had made contributions to theory, but my supervisor says not. I would be really interested to hear if anyone has found anything helpful they've read about theory development in the social sciences/writing up discussion chapters.