What is a term? What is a definition?#to full tutorial

Let us first clarify exactly what we mean by “term” and “definition.” As just noted, A term is a symbol that represents an idea. It can be a mathematical symbol (“Γ”), English word (“class”), or even multiple words or symbols acting in concert (“Δ{population/capacity}”). The idea or concept that the term conveys may be simple and widely shared, or it may be specialized and in need of further clarification for the intended audience.

Clarity#to full tutorial

A theory is clear to the extent that it is intersubjective—evoking the same meanings in the minds of all intended readers. There are many ways for a theory to be unclear, but clear ideas require clear terms and definitions. A good definition combines primitive terms and defined terms in a way that minimizes ambiguity.

Propositions & Terms#to full tutorial

If you have not already identified some central proposition-like statements from the theory, you will need to do this first. As described in the Propositions section, this involves

Ideal Terms and Definitions#to full tutorial

Understanding the difference between propositions and definitions is only the beginning. The definition of a term also needs to avoid ambiguity, be phrased in a general sense, and be abstract enough to have many instances in the real world. In addition to clarity, ideal terms are maximally abstract and general.

A major benefit of formalizing theory is that it maximizes the value of empirical tests. When the rigor of empirical methods outstrip the theories under consideration data become less valuable. This is due to fundamental differences between theory testing and other non-scientific epistemologies like common sense assessments, forecasting efforts, and rote empiricism. Without good theory suitable empirical tests are difficult to design and at risk of misinterpretation or reframing.

Theories and their empirical tests are continuously interacting with each other. Well-articulated theories generate precise and fruitful testing opportunities, and quality empirical tests build confidence in the theory and point to potential new opportunities for refinement. The value of theory relies on evidence and vice versa.

Science must be shared and collective in nature. All else equal, theories which are communicable, logically sound, and parsimonious are superior. Those that suffer by these standards are fundamentally less successful at fulfilling their role, regardless of the empirical evidence surrounding them.

Denotative and Connotative Definitions#to full tutorial

One way in which a theory will benefit from maintaining the qualities of abstractness and generality is in its definitions. A denotative definition describes a term by citing examples of it. For instance,

Finding Scope in Definitions #to full tutorial

Another common mistake you will need to recognize is the use of definitions to constrict the application of a theory, rather than constrict the breadth of a specific term. Sometimes this is done intentionally. Often it happens when authors are trying to reduce the ambiguity of a term. However, building scope restrictions into a definition will only limit the growth and development of the theory. Take for example the original definition of innovation.