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5.2: What Makes a Good Theory?

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    [2] Logical consistency is the basic building block of any theory. It refers to a theory’s ability to “make sense”. Is it logical? Is it internally consistent? A theory’s scope refers to its range, or ranges, of explanations. Does it explain crimes committed by males AND females? Does it explain ALL crimes or just property crime? Does it explain the crime committed by ALL ages or just juveniles? Better theories will have a wider scope or a larger range of explanation.

    test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability; but there are degrees of testability: some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation than others; they take, as it were, greater risks…One can sum up all this by saying that the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability” (Popper, 1965, pp. 36-37). [3]


    1. Cooper, J., Walsh, A., & Ellis, L. (2010). Is criminology ripe for a paradigm shift? Evidence from a survey of American criminologists. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 2, 332-347.
    2. Akers, R.L., & Sellers, C.S. (2013). Criminological theories: Introduction, evaluation, and application. New York: Oxford.
    3. Popper, K.R. (1965). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
    4. Gibbs, J.P. (1990). The notion of theory in sociology. National Journal of Sociology, 4, 129-159.

    This page titled 5.2: What Makes a Good Theory? is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, & Shanell Sanchez (OpenOregon) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.