In this chapter we discuss the art of theory building. Unfortunately there is no magical formula or cookbook for developing good theories about politics. But there are strategies that will help you to develop good theories. We discuss these strategies in this chapter.
GOOD THEORIES COME FROM GOOD THEORY-BUILDING STRATEGIES
In Chapter 1 we discussed the role of theories in developing scientific knowledge. From that discussion, it is clear that a “good” theory is one that, after going through the rigors of the evaluation process, makes a contribution to scientific knowledge. In other words, a good theory is one that changes the way that we think about some aspect of the political world. We also know from our discussion of the rules of the road that we want our theories to be causal, not driven by data alone, empirical, non-normative, general, and parsimonious. This is a tall order, and a logical question to ask at this point is “How do I come up with such a theory?”
Unfortunately, there is neither an easy answer nor a single answer. Instead, what we can offer you is a set of strategies. “Strategies?” you may ask. Imagine that you were given the following assignment: “Go out and get struck by lightning.” There is no cut-and-dried formula that will show you how to get struck by lightning, but certainly there are actions that you can take that will make it more likely. The first step is to look at a weather map and find an area where there is thunderstorm activity, and if you were to go to such an area, you would increase your likelihood of getting struck.