Thinking About Theory
Steven H. Chaffee1 Stanford University
Theorizing about human communication is a very common human activity. We could not live effective lives if we did not formulate, and act upon, general suppositions about why people say what they say, for example, or how what we say affects other people. Indeed, understanding communication has such obvious survival value that one might imagine theorizing to be a genetically inherited propensity throughout our species.
Research on human communication, on the other hand, is a rare activity, one that requires a number of intellectual skills that are developed only through academic discipline. Basic to almost all of these skills is the decidedly uncommon activity of theorizing for research. That is the subject of this chapter; to a great extent it is the purpose of this entire book.
Most readers will be familiar with two meanings of theory: theory as abstract ideas and theory as predictable findings. Neither of these quite describes the underlying process of theorizing as it will be described here. This chapter will emphasize a third meaning, one built around concept explication--a kind of thinking that connects the____________________