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Table of Contents


Properties of a good theory 3

Stages of theory development 4

Strengths and weakness of the theory 6

My Understanding about the Theoretical Contribution 7

My Contribution to the Theory In Terms Of Addressing the Gaps 9

References 11

Properties of a good theory

A theory can be regarded as a system of variables and constructs, whereby the variables are associated with one another through hypotheses while the constructs are associated with each other through propositions (Bacharach, 1989, p.499). Therefore, a worthy theory is applicable to complex real-life environments and to research contexts that are tightly controlled and highly simplified. In addition, a good theory is generalizable to relevant and well-defined populations and universes beyond particular studies boundaries, wherein it was constructed and tested. As pointed out by Corley and Gioia (2011, p.18) a good theory is practical specifically because it develops scientific knowledge, edifies the management profession, and guides research in the direction of crucial questions. A theory can only be good if it pursues the virtues criteria. A good does not only establish empirically observable patterns, but also tries to describe the causes. In addition, a good theory has a dynamic element, whereby it explains how one set of circumstances results in another. A good theory is the one that can be applied to various situations, people or individual events.

Practically, a good theory facilitates the Identification of what factors must be studied and why and how they are connected. More importantly, a high-quality theory outlines the boundaries as well as conditions of relationships (Corley & Gioia, 2011, p.18). According to Van de Ven (1989, p.486), a good theory suggests means of strengthening capabilities of theory development; thus, connecting the theory with the professions and disciplines. A good theory can be exposed to rigorous hypothesis analysis and should control, explain, describe, and predict behaviour and phenomena (Cramer, 2013, p.10). A good theory should focus on the effects rather than the attributes of phenomena. A good theory should enable a person to understand different things in new ways. In general, the proper concepts as cited by Bacharach (1989, p.501) are required to formulate a good theory, but a good theory is required in order to get proper concepts.

Stages of theory development

The stages of theory development as shown in figure one include observation, categorization in terms of the attributes of phenomena, and defining relationships (Christensen, 2006, p.40). In the first stage (observation), phenomena are observed and then the researchers carefully measure and describe what they have observed. The researchers are expected to lay a firm foundation by carefully observing, documenting as well as measuring the phenomena in numbers and words. In this stage, constructs are normally developed, and they are abstractions that enable researchers to overcome the cluttered detail in order to fathom the significance of the phenomena and the means of operating them. In the second stage (classification), the researchers build a pyramid, whereby the phenomena are classified into categories. Importantly, the categorization stage organises and simplifies the world to an extent that the possible consequential connections between the outcomes of interest and phenomena are highlighted. Christensen (2006, p.40) refer the descriptive categorization schemes as typologies or frameworks. In the last stage (defining relationships), the relationship between the phenomena’s category-defining attributes and the observed outcomes are explored. The researchers make clear the attributes’ differences and methods like regression analysis are normally utilised to define such correlations. The studies’ output at this stage is commonly known as models.

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Figure 1: Theory building process (Christensen, 2006, p.40)

Given that the theory construction process has become more explicit, Weick (1989, p.529) suggests that the modification of theory construction can be done at the step where problems have been detailed (assumptions are made clearer, representation is made more detailed and more accurate), where formulation of thought trials are done (the number of generated trials are increased, increase trials generated heterogeneity), as well as where thought trials to select the criteria (criteria is applied more consistently, simultaneously, and diversely). According to Whetten (1989, p.491), what and how offer a framework crucial for the interpretation of discrepancies or patterns, in the empirical observations. Therefore, a well-developed theory must be plausible and offer cogent justification for why certain relationships must be expected in the empirical data. These elements collectively offer the important ingredients for developing a simple theory: explanation and description.

Case studies are normally utilised to develop theories because they accommodate a rich data sources’ variety, which includes observations, interviews, and survey data (Eisenhardt, 1989, p.534). Therefore, using case studies to build theories has become more popular and crucial research strategy creating a platform for disproportionately many influential studies. Case studies normally result in a fresh theory, which bridges sufficiently from mainstream deductive research to rich qualitative evidence (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007, p.30). The case/field methods as indicated by Meredith (1998, p.453) are beneficial for selective testing of current theories, especially in circumstances and situations, like an extreme or polar type situation.

Strengths and weakness of the theory

The four components of a theory as cited by Weick (1989, p.364); factual claims on certain predictions, definitions of variables or terms, a set of variables’ relationships, and the domain where the theory is applicable makes many theories stronger. The strength of theories is that they are unambiguously known: that is to say, assumptions are normally very clear from the outset, and although they include deliberate and known approximations, they facilitate the understanding of imprecisions as well as the associated consequences. Besides that, a theory can make new predictions from past predictions. More importantly, a theory offers researchers with the required ‘heuristic devices’ and principles so as to successfully carry out their project. Theories are very useful in enlightening the researchers’ thinking as well as offering providing them with reassurance in case disinclinations crop up during the process of research. Besides that, a theory as mentioned by Hussein et al. (2014, p.4) foster creativity since they are generated from empirical data. Thanks to theory, researchers can move through a discovery process whereby interpretations, as well as themes, surface naturally from the data. Importantly, theory facilitates the development of a meaning from data as well as analysis through inductive and creative processes. Additionally, a theory has conceptualisation potential, have asystematic approach to data analysis, and can be used to gather rich data (Hussein et al., 2014, p.5).

In terms of weakness, a theory involves a high abstraction level from reality bearing in mind that the real world is becoming more and more complex. Besides that, theories’ applications are narrowed and are overly academic. Another weakness as mentioned by Weick (1989, p.516) is that a theory cannot be improved unless the process of theorising is improved. Furthermore, most theories are advanced using observable data attained after a relatively short duration. Other theories such as trait theory can only be measured through subjective self-reports or personal observations. The data subjectivity in some theories makes it hard to establish the validity and reliability of information and approaches. Moreover, it is challenging to prevent or detect researcher-induced bias. Some theories such as Attribution Theory raise the question of the falsifiability and verifiability. According to Manusov and Spitzberg (2008, p.46), falsifiability is the level to which evidence contradicting the theory may be generated using investigation and observation. On the other hand, verifiability can be defined as the level to which evidence that support the theory may be generated by means of investigation and observation.

My Understanding about the Theoretical Contribution

With the view to the study (the impact of the social media in crises management), Attribution Theory would reinforce the theoretical grounding of the study because it offers a common set of shared methods and concepts, which facilitates the different researchers’ findings to be integrated successfully. Importantly, Attribution Theory will offer a mechanism to integrate the various studies associated with social media in crises management with the objective of creating a set of principles crucial for evidence-based crisis communication. According to Coombs (1997, p.138), Attribution Theory provides a theoretical link, which facilitates the researcher to integrate research findings from different researchers. The
SCCT postulates that organisations must consider the practical response strategies that could assist in restoring their reputation, as well as preventing or reducing the negative outcomes. Attribution Theory, on the other hand, will offer an important framework for analysing public’s and companies’ reactions to a crisis situation.

Attribution Theory will be used as the connecting point so as to converge diverse streams of research into a pool of post-crisis communication knowledge, which offers a means for evidence-based crisis communication. On the other hand, the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) as cited by Zamani et al. (2015, p.36) applies ideas based on the Attribution Theory in different types of crises. More importantly, SCCT draws upon social–psychological theory as well as experimental methods. Basically, the SCCT test assumptions associated with how the crisis situation’ perceptions have an effect on the crisis response as well as the crisis responses effects on outcomes like purchase intention, emotions, and reputation. According to Coombs (2007, p.163), SCCT offers an evidence-based framework that can be used by researchers to understand how reputational protection can be maximised through post-crisis communication. For this reason, the SCCT can be used to identify how main factors of a crisis situation have an effect on the attributions concerning the crisis as well as the stakeholders’ reputations. The SCCT empirical research offers a set of strategies that can be used by crisis managers to respond to a crisis with aim of protecting the reputation from the consequences of the crisis. The figure below shows SCCT’scrisis situation model:

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Figure 2: SCCTcrisis situation model (Coombs, 2007, p.166)

My Contribution to the Theory In Terms Of Addressing the Gaps

SCCT would help create an understanding with regard to social media in crises management since it enables a crisis manager to determine the best strategy for crisis response that could maximise protection of reputation. As opined by Coombs (2007, p.174) SCCT places emphasis on the crisis manager analysing a crisis situation with the objective of examining the reputational threat level attributed to a crisis. Therefore, SCCT would address the gap because it does not only model the crisis situation, bit also offers a set of guidelines (evidence-based) that could be used to respond to a crisis. Besides that, SCCT envisages the reputational threat caused by a crisis and identifies a set of key crisis response strategies (Leykin et al., 2016). Additionally, SCCT offers steps that could be used to analyse the crisis reputational threat by grouping the types of crisis into three clusters: victim cluster,accidental cluster, andintentional cluster. Attribution Theory as indicated by Ngamassi et al. (2016, p.2) suggests that people normally conduct themselves as inexperienced psychologists when they try to understand the cause of happenings. Furthermore, Attribution Theory suggests that individuals search for the cause of happenings, particularly negative and unexpected events.

Normally, disasters have two characteristics; negative outcomes and unexpected outcomes; therefore, Attribution Theory could be a good fit for illuminating the patterns of social media adoption, precisely in the phases of disaster preparedness and mitigation. As mentioned by Conner et al. (2014, p.56), Attribution Theory is important because it enables specialists in the public relations to understand how consumers respond to events they face, particularly the unexpected and sudden events. In view of this, Attribution theory would address the gaps with regard to the study topic because it can be used appropriately when the situation results in an embarrassment or negative effect, which normally happens when the target audience believe that an offensive act has been committed by the accused. Given that many stakeholders hold the organisation responsible when a crisis occurs, Attribution Theory will help in determining how stakeholders assign liability and punishment to the involved organisations as well as parties when a crisis strikes. Conner et al. (2014, p.56) assert that organisations normally lose their reputation when they are held completely responsible for a crisis; as a result, their financial position could be affected negatively and could possibly lose valuable relationships. When crisis occurs, a number of response strategies are implemented. Attribution theory will offer a valuable framework for conceptualising the crisis communications management. According to the theory, the perception of the stakeholders is rooted in the dimensions of controllability, stability, and locus of the crisis by the organisation.


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Christensen, C.M., 2006. The Ongoing Process of Building a Theory of Disruption. Journal of Product Innovation Management , vol. 23, pp.39–55.

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