COM 270
Introduction to Theories of Human Communication

Lecture 3: Why Are Theories Important?

A. Organizing function -- a theory helps us to understand how various observations and other pieces of data fit together.

Ex: The theory of "Global Warming " helps us make sense of various meterological "anomalies"

B. Focusing function -- a theory serves to help us determine what is important to look at or study; it is like a map that shows us the important places to search for data.

Ex: Psychiatric theories of child abuse focus our attention on the personality characteristics of the child abuser; Sociological theories of child abuse focus on social stress combined with aspects of culture and family dynamics.

C. Predictive function -- a theory helps us to specify what will or is likely to occur before it occurs.

QUESTIONS: Do you need a theory to predict . . . why or why not? How can theory help prediction?

D. Heuristic function -- a theory helps to generate new questions and hypotheses; it facilitates and promotes NEW research.

Ex: Einstein's Theory of Relativity led us to ask new questions space travel, time travel, and other things related to the speed of light.

E. Control function -- theory serves to specify what should and should not be done

Ex: S.A.R.S. and the traveling professor

F. Change function -- theory serves to challenge existing ways of doing things and to offer new alternatives.

Ex: Theory of cooperative learning has changed the "achitecture" of elementary school classrooms.




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