The role of theory in social research is that without a sociological theory, nothing can be sociological. Facts disconnected from theory are just facts. Theory makes the facts speak; the facts don’t and cannot speak for themselves. Without a connection to other facts, we cannot assess anything. With theory, you can relate facts to each other.
Theory is the body of interrelated logical concepts or universals that connect to empirical facts and phenomena. Empirical research is okay as long as there is theory involved with it. Theory helps us select which facts are important and which are not. Theory also allows us to organize the facts. Theory helps us create a story and tell which the dependent is and which the independent variable is. Theory points us to what we don’t know, which is the point of all the research in sociology.
Theory also allows different concepts of sociology to talk to each other, and that allows sociology to progress. Emile Durkheim had stated in “What is a Social Fact?” that reason develops theories and, and observation backs them up. According to Durkheim, social facts are not ideas, they are facts and they are observable. Facts without a certain theory backing them are and will be meaningless. We had talked about this in the very beginning of the semester about how stating certain statistics such as ‘men make .75 cents more than women’ might be true, but just stating that will not be enough.
In sociology, what need to be done are the reasons for stating that fact, and what it means for the society as a whole. Therefore, facts cannot stand alone without theory because they complete each other in a way. Talcott Parsons gives a different example in regards to this; “Few if any empiricists are content with discre. .heories. Because Durkheim came way before Parsons and died when Parsons was basically a teenager, it is mainly Parsons that built on the work of Durkheim, as pointed out in the above paragraphs through his various theories, however his theories and Durkheim’s are very much interrelated and have the potential to connect because both of these theorists were engaged in figuring out social order, and though their answers were not exactly the same, Durkheim’s division of labor and social facts and Parsons unit of act and social systems are very much relatable as has been explained above.
Works CitedDurkheim, Emile. (1984). Mechanical and Organic Solidarity. NY: Free Press.Durkheim, Emile. The Rules of Sociological Method.
NY: Free Press, 1982.Lecture Notes.Parsons, Talcott. (1938). The Role of Theory in Social Research. American Sociological Review.