The Role of Theory in the Social Sciences


This is a very essential tool for the social scientist as they relate to historical events and debates which are valid and reliable. Most of the social theories are objective, descriptive and scientific. Other theories are referred to as conflictive because they tend to challenge the norms which have been in existence before and do not go with the conventional way of thinking. Most of the social theories are thought to have originated from the ancient Greek and spread to the rest of the world. Currently, social theories are not just used in the explanations of phenomena in the social sciences only but also in the political science, economics and other many discipline (PEET, 1998, 98).

Social theories attempt to derive and explain the laws of nature in a society. They make a natural phenomenon be understood in the context of a social phenomenon. Thus, the social theories make the natural phenomena be understood by the human beings in their own context. It is the use of the social theories which brings about understanding of these natural phenomena without which, the human beings will find it hard to explain. Thus, the social theories can be said to be important in the explanation of the natural phenomena in the context of a social phenomenon.

Role of theory in Social sciences

The social theories provide some explanation of the occurrence of particular social phenomena. They help the social scientist in understanding of why the things happen the way they happen. Thus, they are a framework on which the social scientists can evaluate the various things which happen. Social theories therefore help the people to understand various phenomena which occur in their social context. Without the social theories, there cannot be explanation of the natural phenomena in scientific terms and thus, the social sciences would not make sense at all (Bell, 2009, 67).

It is on the social theories that case studies are based and carried out. The social theories provide the general hypothesis in the social sciences. This hypothesis is used in the formulation of a case study which will be used to test them. Thus, they provide knowledge on how the particular case studies will be carried out and the probable results. The case studies are a very important part of the social sciences. The social sciences rely on this case studies in bring the scientific understanding of the social context in which the people are living in. As mentioned above, without the social theories, the case studies will not be formed and thus it would be difficult to study the social sciences. Thus, the social sciences are useful in the formulation of case studies with which sociology can be learnt more effectively (Hubbard, et al, 2002, 211).

Social theories use historical happenings and debates to bring about the understanding of the current phenomena. By the use of the social theories, it is possible for the person to understand how a particular situation came about. The social theory will try to look into the past and then compare what has happened to the current. As a result, it will provide an accurate explanation of the current events using the past experiences. Thus, social theories usually bring about the understanding of the present things by referring to the historical events for better and easy understanding.

Social theories shed some important light on what determines the change in behavior of a person. They help people to understand the various things which lead to a change in the behavior of a person in a particular social context. The understanding of the factors leading to the change of behavior in people is useful in the planning process. During planning, the planners will consider those factors which significantly contribute to the behavior change of a person. The planners will therefore use social theories to determine these factors. Without the social theories, social planners will not be able to know the particular factors responsible for the change in the behavior of people and thus lead to difficulties in planning. However, if the social planners have the knowledge of the factors affecting the behavior of people, they will be able to address these factors in their planning which will lead to a better planning (Panelli, 2004, 98).

According to PEET (P 198), social theories form a skeleton on which newer theories are formed. They form the basis on which social scientists will base their studies and form new knowledge in the social science. The social theories will provide a skeleton of the knowledge on which the social science researchers will be able to lay their new knowledge on. Therefore, the social theories enable social science researchers to form new knowledge concerning the behavior of human beings and its evaluation of it. The social theories help in the creation of new knowledge in the social science subject without which research in the subject would be very hard and coming up with new knowledge would prove cumbersome.

The society is faced with a lot of challenges in its day to day running. However, the social theories will try to explain the origin of these challenges using the pats experiences as they try to relate them with the present. In addition, the social theories will help the social scientists understand why a particular problem is occurring in the society. With this, it will be possible to eliminate fear in the society since they understand better the origin of these challenges. By the use of social theories, social scientists are able to make sense out of the happenings in the society which would have otherwise been labeled as mysterious. They therefore attempt to make the people understand why the particular events occur in the society.

Social theories form a very important component of arriving at solutions of the problems in the society. By understanding the cause of certain problems in the society, the social theories will make the social scientist understand how to deal with a particular challenge facing the society. The social scientist will be able to arrive at solutions which he or she would not have arrived at without using the social theories. Social theories use the past happenings to form the framework on which all the solutions will be determined to any problem which is facing the society. It is this frameworks which are built by the social theories which as a pillar in the solving of society problems.

According to Bell, (99) social theories will provide the basis on which the solutions will be evaluated. Any solution to a particular problem in the society will be evaluated on the basis of its ability to concur with the social theory. Because of the frameworks which the social theories have, it is easy to evaluate the effectiveness of the various solutions which have been arrived at by a person in the process of solving problems. The social theories also help the social studies in that they will provide explanations on the solutions arrived at. The people studying social science will be able to understand why a particular solution was arrived at and why it was effective. They therefore make sense out of the solutions arrived at in the solving of social problems (Blunt, & Wills, 2000, 290).

Social theories are a source of knowledge to all people who are studying social sciences. Without carrying out case studies and determining the various aspects of social sciences, a person is able to get a lot of knowledge about the community. He or she will get this knowledge without first going into case studies. Social theories give an analysis of the historical events comparing them with the current events and thus make it possible to get the knowledge which is required. For the people who are just starting to learn social sciences, these theories are important in making them understand the society better and get knowledge on which to build on in the future (Gregory, 1994, 48).

Social theories are important in research in social sciences. These theories help researchers to come up with research problems in the society. For example, by the provision of the factors which determine the occurrence of certain behaviors in the society, social scientists are able to research on the way these factors affect behavior. The social theory provides the knowledge on the existence of these factors and thus the researcher is able to get into research and determine which aspect of the factor affects the behavior and how. If the social theory was not there, it would not be possible for the researcher to know that the factors affect the behavior. Therefore, research into the way these factors affect the social behavior of people would not be carried out. Social theory thus helps the social researchers in coming up with the topics of research with a view of making the theory more understandable and more likely to explain precisely what is happening in the social context.

Specialist in social theory is able to critically view the social theories and decide whether they are relevant or not. As stated by Panelli, (42) they use the social behaviors of the people to review these theories. Therefore, the critics of the social theories use them to bring about their point on how these theories are not effective in the determination of the behavior of the people. If the social theories were not there, the critics would not have a basis on which they will evaluate the theories and thus would not promote the understanding of the people’s behavior in a social context. Therefore, critics of the social theory will be able to make sense of the natural phenomena and compare it with the social theory so as to disapprove it. Thus, it is the social theory which provides the basis on which the events will be evaluated and the evaluation will also critically analyze the ability of the social theory to explain this happening (Kuhn, 1970, 74).

The link between the social sciences and the nature is brought about by the social theories. The social theories will provide a clear explanation on why things will happen in the nature the way they happen. Without the social theory, the nature and social science would be very distinct and different entities. The social scientists would not be able to explain the various happenings in the nature and thus make it difficult to make sense in nature as stated by Duncan, Johnson, & Schein, (324). However, the social theories will try to analyze these events and make the social scientists understand the connections between the social theories and the nature which leads to an increased understanding of the nature. Previously, before the advent of the social theories, the nature sciences were viewed as very different from the social sciences. These theories however brought about the link between these two subjects making it possible for both of the subjects to be viewed as related to each other.

Social theories are used in the social science to evaluate the validity of the various methodological approaches in the research in social sciences. There are different research methodologies which can be used in the social sciences. However, their validity is what is important since unless they are proved to be valid, they cannot be used as research methodology in science. The research methodologies have to be tested first if they are valid and if they can be accepted scientifically before they can be used by that person in his or her research. They are therefore important in the determination of whether they are valid or not (Bell, 2009, 67).

Since the social theory will provide the information on the possible results which are likely to be got from a certain study, the deviation from these results on a large scale will mean that the research methodology is not appropriate, according to Garner, (34). Social theories will provide a basis on which the social scientists will review the methodologies which are proposed to serve the purpose of research in social science. They will evaluate the results which have been got from that research methodology with the theory. Thus, if the results appear to be contradictory to the social theory, there is a high likelihood that the research methodology used is not the appropriate one.

The social theories however present a challenge to the social science studies. First, most people stick to the explanations of the social theories without first proving it to be true. The social theories provide the information which would have been got from research and use of case studies. This leads to laziness in the people and they do not struggle in research to establish the various determinants of the social behavior. If the social theories were not there, social scientists would be more interested in the finding of the various factors which affect the behavior of a person. This would lead to a lot of researches and bring about new knowledge (Castree, 2005, 65).

Contexts of Theories in Social science

The social theories were designed in contexts which were different from today’s contexts. This means that these theories will not be appropriate in the explanation of the various events which occur in the day to day running of the society. Thus, the use of the social theories ion the explanation of a certain social phenomena leads to a misleading conclusion. The historical events which happened and lead to the formation of the theory are very different from the current context. Thus, social theories miss the context of the activities taking place. If the social theory is applied to the situations in which it was formed under, it would be very appropriate to use it. However, it will be hard to explain a situation in which the players are different, the environment is different and the people are different. Therefore, it may not easily interpret the various things which happen in the social context (Elliot, 2009, 201).

Social theory generalizes all the occurrences in the society as similar. This I because, the theories just provide the same framework for the interpretation of the various things which happen in the society. As a result, the social theories will provide similar explanations regardless of the context of the event which has occurred. This is in contradiction with the belief that all the events are different and that they do not occur as a result of the same factors. This shows that the social theories have a defect in explanation of the occurrences of certain events in the society. They are therefore not very good in the study of social behaviors because of their generalization of the whole society events.

Some of the social theories do not concur with the recent researches. In most of the times, critics have argued that these theories are not valid and they should not be used in the explanation of the occurrence of the social behaviors occurring in the society. Social theories sometimes go against the logic and thus lead to a contradiction between them and the happenings in the society. This is why some of the social scientist never values these theories as they are not explaining t6he exact cause of the behavior of the people. They do not explain the real origin of the personal characteristics which lies in the biological theories. Therefore, they are deficient in explaining this which makes them not appropriate for use in the social sciences (DUNCAN, JOHNSON, & SCHEIN, 2004, 44).


In conclusion, social theories have been in use for a long time. They have formed a very important part of the explanation of the behavior of the people in the society. They explain the factors which drive the change in behavior. Therefore social scientists studying a certain behavior in the society will find it easy for him or her to evaluate the behavior which is occurring and thus make it understandable. They also form the basis of research, whether the research is meant to advance the theory or criticize it and thus promoting the advancement of knowledge in social studies. However, these theories have been criticized for their failure to explain a particular happening in the society as an independent event. This is because they tend to generalize these events without taking into account the various factors which are coming into play in that context. They also have made some people studying social sciences lazy since they provide some explanation to most of the things happening in the society and thus make them see no need of getting into research. This leads to a deficiency in knowledge.

Reference List

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