COMMUNICATION THEORY

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Encyclopedia of Communication Theory Evaluating Communication Theory

Contributors: Author:Stephen W. Littlejohn Edited by: Stephen W. Littlejohn & Karen A. Foss Book Title: Encyclopedia of Communication Theory Chapter Title: "Evaluating Communication Theory" Pub. Date: 2009 Access Date: October 28, 2020 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc. City: Thousand Oaks Print ISBN: 9781412959377 Online ISBN: 9781412959384 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n135 Print pages: 364-366

© 2009 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.

Scholars use several criteria to evaluate theories in order to establish their contribution to the body of knowledge and usefulness. This entry summarizes several evaluative criteria and provides a measure of the overall qualities of a good theory.

Evaluation Criteria

Theoretical Scope

Scope refers to the comprehensiveness or breadth of a theory. Although theories vary in coverage, some level of generality is necessary for a theory to have value. In other words, a theory must explain events beyond a single observation. One can explain an observation, but that explanation is not theoretical if it does not apply to other observations as well. In other words, a theory must cover a range of events. The more observations that a theory covers, the better the theory is judged to be.

A theory can have two types of generality. The first is the extent of a theory's coverage. If a theory addresses a wide spectrum of topics, it has value in helping us understand characteristics that span many aspects of communication. For example, a theory might explain how people create meaning in all forms of communication. Because the topic of meaning …