Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Scientific Value / Theoretical Contribution

When planning a research study or looking to develop a theory to help explain a particular phenomenon, new knowledge to a field is partially judged on the basis of the scientific value that the new research or theory provides to the field of study. The scientific value of a contribution is evaluated, according to Polanyi (2009), by three factors:
  • its exactitude
  • its systematic importance, and
  • the intrinsic interest of the subject matter (p. 66).

Exactitude relates to the accuracy of the contribution, often reflected in the type of methodology used. The analysis for a research study needs to be conducted using the proper statistical methodology along with presenting the correct assumptions for that particular methodology. Although theory is not a direct function of the exactitude factor, it is a requirement that provides the foundation for research in which statistical analyses are made possible.

Likewise, theory play more of a role in the later two factors. In the systematic importance factor, systematic relates to the constructs or variables that are used to define the components of the presented theory along with any interactions between those constructs and variables. This systematic importance factor helps provide a plausible explanation of how the parts of the theory combine into a composite (whole) theory that addresses the phenomenon or problem in question. 

Lastly, the intrinsic interest factor relates to the researcher addressing a new phenomenon or problem that a particular field of study is interested in pursuing. Addressing a known problem that has been researched previously and that has a number of potential solutions will not be too interesting to those in the field who are reviewing the article for acceptance, nor would it be very interesting to the readers in that field. By identifying a new or novel ideal, or addressing a new problem that the field of study is faced with, will be of more interest and value, not only to those reviewing the article but also to those reading the article once published. Capturing the audience is important (interest), identifying what is important to the field that you are proposing to (intrinsic) addresses the concerns of that field (intrinsic interest).

Polanyi, M. (2009). The tacit dimension. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
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