Conceptual–Theoretical–Empirical Structures for Theory Development Theory development

Conceptual–Theoretical–Empirical Structures for Theory Development Theory development involves specification of a conceptual–theoretical–empirical (C-T-E) structure made up of three components:

A conceptual model A theory Empirical indicators and other empirical methodsTheory development is the product of research, which is a systematic process of inquiry (Fawcett & Garity, 2009). Thus, every study is explicitly or implicitly designed to develop a theory by means of generation of new theory or testing of an existing theory. Theory-generating research is descriptive research, the findings of which are new descriptive theories. Theory testing research can be descriptive, correlational, or experimental research. The findings of descriptive theory-testing research determine the empirical adequacy of an existing descriptive theory. The findings of correlational theory-testing research determine the empirical adequacy of an existing explanatory theory. The findings of experimental theory-testing research determine the empirical adequacy of an existing predictive theory. Although the conduct of research typically is thought of as a rigorous scientific process, it is also a creative endeavor involving an appreciation of the beauty of logical reasoning and the “aha” moments that come when developing elegant C-T-E structures, designing studies, and interpreting data.