The Science and Art of Theory Development and Evaluation

The Science and Art of Theory Development and Evaluation

Scholars in various disciplines have conducted research and developed various theories to explain different phenomena’ existence or relationship. Hypotheses are created to fulfill a need and are always formed from observations, empirical studies, and literature review to produce a theory that explains a phenomenon, relationship of phenomena, or predicts the occurrence of phenomena. It is essential to evaluate a postulation before its application to test its correctness. Some theories, such as those in health sciences, are not applicable before testing and evaluation. It is only possible to determine a theory’s effectiveness by testing after the predicted phenomenon occurs. However, evaluation is possible using scientific and artistic approaches.

The various criteria for evaluating theories are scope, logical consistency, parsimony, utility, testability, heurism, and test of time. Scope, utility, and logical consistency are arts of theory development and evaluation. A theory must be within the scope, which means somebody cannot develop a postulation beyond their purview. For instance, an expert in the medical field cannot create a political leadership theory because it is not within their purview. Logical consistency means that a hypothesis should be correct at all times. A postulation must not contain contradicting statements at different times. The utility is the art of testing the theory’s usefulness and is evaluated based on its contribution to the field on which it is based (Fawcett, 2005). A postulation must bring a new aspect into the discipline. A hypothesis that repeats existing theories does not pass the test of utility.

Parsimony, testability, heurism, and test of time are scientific approaches to theory development and evaluation. Parsimony means that a theory should have a few concepts to be effective. A hypothesis with many arguments and ideas does not pass the parsimony test (Redmond, 2015). The science behind this is that the higher the number of concepts and arguments, the more difficult it is to produce a practical theory. Heurism refers to the ability of a hypothesis to create new thinking and stimulate new thoughts. A reasonable postulation must contribute to the discipline by bringing a unique aspect or thought to the field. Other researchers and theorists should be able to apply the theory or use the hypothesis as a basis for coming up with other postulations (Avant, 2009).

A good theory must pass testability and test of time. Testability means that its basis should be reliable evidence, and it should be possible for people to verify the evidence behind the theory. A theory can is not a statement without any backing of empirical research, literature review, or any other form of verifiable proof (Avant, 2009). The test of time means that a theory must be predictive and powerful. Predictability relates to the ability of the postulation to give a good reason to be adopted. This concept requires a good and convincing explanation of the thinking behind the hypothesis. A hypothesis should be influential because it should have a considerable impact on people’s lives or the relevant discipline. A postulation must provide a milestone in the field (Fawcett, 2005). If a theory does not have a significant influence, it does not pass the power test. Lastly, a postulation must withstand the test of time. Similar studies on similar objects or subjects at any time should be able to give similar conclusions and the same theory.

Theory is a framework or model for understanding and observation, which determines what we perceive and how we perceive it. Hypothesis lets a researcher form links between concrete and abstract statements. Postulation asserts a link between different phenomena and explains the relationship between various variables. Hypothesis organizes different ideas and guides research. Facts may not be useful if they lack meaning unless combined into a theoretical framework. The strength of theory increases as supporting evidence becomes available. Postulations can form a basis for prediction and can help produce new research. When evaluating a theory, it is crucial to consider various aspects such as coherency and logic of the hypothesis, testability of theory-based claims and predictions, the fitness of postulation to available data, and its potential impact on the world


Avant, K. (2009). Reading and evaluating theory in a research publication. Perioperative Nursing Clinics, 4(3), 231-236. https://doi: 10.1016/j.cpen.2009.05.002

Fawcett, J. (2005). Criteria for evaluation of theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 18(2),131-5. https://DOI:10.1177/0894318405274823

Redmond, M. (2015). Theory development and evaluation. IOWA State University Digital Repository.