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Keyword: Definitions of Theory


Theories and Models are concepts without a universal definition or meaning, rather scholars, experts, and researchers have tried to define and explain theory based on their perceptions, and background among others. No doubt, a theory is one of the essential ingredients in explaining communication matters/events.

Thus, understanding theory helps in a great number of ways to under communication, research, and many other human bahaviours because theory depends on research to provide proof of the theory’s correctness. Anaeto, Onabajo, and Osifeso (2008) when stating the importance of theory, opined that theory is what gives studies a required footing. Also, going by the position of Earl Barbie (1987) cited in Anaeto, et. al. (2008) stresses the three elements of social science research as theory, research, and statistics. These constructs are based on the fact that theory generates research and research generates and refines theory.

Although there are differing opinions as to what constitutes a theory, comparison and contrast of the diversity of opinions on what constitutes the virtues of a good theory is important. Daniel (2012) in Wacker (1998) stated, “Operationalization of the definition of theory should directly be tied to the necessary components of theory”.

According to him, a theory is composed of four components:

(a) definitions,

(b) a domain of applicability,

(c) a set of relationships of variables, and

(d) specific predictions or factual claims.

It is against the above assertion that some definitions of a theory are examined in order to understand what theory meant to each of the scholars.

SCHOLARS: McQuail, Kurt Lewin, Wilbur Schramm, Earl Babbie, Severin and Tankard, Daramola, Abrah and Kaplan, Rychlak, Sutherland, Bacharach and Kerlinger.


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  1. A set of interrelated concepts and ideas that are used to explain or describe a phenomenon or set of phenomena.
  2. A systematic explanation of observed events or phenomena that is supported by evidence.
  3. A general explanation for a broad range of events or observations.
  4. A model that provides a framework for understanding the relationships between different variables.
  5. An overarching framework or model that integrates and explains a range of existing ideas or theories.
  6. A hypothesis or explanation that has been widely accepted or supported by evidence.
  7. A systematic explanation of a particular phenomenon or set of phenomena that is based on empirical data and observation.
  8. A body of knowledge or understanding that is used to guide future research or inform practical applications.
  9. An explanation or interpretation of a particular phenomenon that is based on scientific investigation and critical analysis.
  10. An explanatory framework or perspective that helps to make sense of complex data, observations, or experiences.


The functions of theory can vary depending on the discipline or field of study. Generally, theory serves to:

  1. Explain phenomena: Theories aim to provide an understanding of how or why things work the way they do. They explain patterns or regularities in a given field of study and provide a framework for organizing and interpreting data.
  2. Predict outcomes: Theories can be used to make predictions about future events or behaviors based on observed patterns in the past or present. Predictive theories are useful for decision-making and planning.
  3. Provide a basis for research: Theories provide a starting point for research by identifying key concepts and relationships between them. They help researchers formulate research questions and hypotheses.
  4. Facilitate communication: Theories provide a shared language and conceptual framework for researchers and practitioners in a given field. They enable individuals to communicate more effectively and collaborate towards a common goal.
  5. Guide practice: Theories can inform practical applications in a given field, such as developing interventions or policies based on empirical evidence.
  6. Generate new knowledge: Theories can generate new knowledge by identifying gaps in understanding or inconsistencies in existing theories. They can inspire new research questions and directions for future research.

Overall, theories serve as a foundation for knowledge in a given field, shaping how individuals approach and understand phenomena within that field.

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