Main Lab

Theories
   Describing aspects of
    a good theory.

Phases of research
  Steps for conducting a
    research study.

Research methods
  Different types of 
   research methods.

Sources for Info
  Primary & Secondary
    sources of research.

Journal Articles
  Understanding a
    typical journal article.

On-line Searches
  How to use PsycInfo 
    and other search
    engines.  Includes info
    on full text articles.

APA Format
   Learn to write in APA 
      format.

Activities & Quizzes
   A variety of activities
    related to research. 
   To be used in classes.

 

Topic:  Evaluating Theories 

   A theory is a comprehensive explanation of natural phenomena.  Anyone can come up with a theory.  (Just listen to a groups of sports fans after their team lost a big game and you will hear a variety of theories.)  But a good theory, particularly a scientific theory, has to have certain criteria to it.  They are: 

Fits known facts 
  

      A theory cannot contain elements that are not a part of our reality.  This is the separation between science and science fiction. 


Testable 
  

        A theory must make specific predictions that can be tested empirically (empirical means that it is based on observed data) and allow for the possibility of contradictory evidence.  If I make the claim that "if a baby's first dream is in black and white, the baby will likely grow up to be maladjusted", I do not have a good theory.  It is impossible to know what a baby is dreaming.  It cannot be tested; therefore, it is not a good theory.


Predicts new discoveries 
  

         This criteria simply means we do not want to re-invent the wheel.  A good scientist creates a theory by carefully studying existing empirical evidence and using logic to form new ideas.  Science needs to be innovative; new ideas are 
naturally emphasized. 


Is Parsimonious 
  

          Parsimony means explaining theories in the simplest terms.  If there are two theories that both explain a phenemena, the simpler and more straightforward theory is preferred.  Likewise, one theory that explains a set of phenomena is preferred over several theories that also explain the set of phenomena.  Simple is better.


 Good theories are the hallmark of any science.