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Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills

Second Edition
A Practical Guide for Social Scientists

James Jaccard and Jacob Jacoby

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February 6, 2020
ISBN 9781462542444
Price: $117.00
522 Pages
Size: 7" x 10"
February 6, 2020
ISBN 9781462542437
Price: $57.00
522 Pages
Size: 7" x 10"
December 19, 2019
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Price: $57.00
522 Pages
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522 Pages
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This accessible, hands-on text has now been revised and updated, with expanded coverage of topics including how theory may emerge from exploratory data analysis. The book prepares graduate students, new researchers, and even seasoned investigators to develop their own theories and build on existing ones. Concrete strategies are provided to help readers generate ideas, define constructs, and think through relationships and processes that link constructs. Compelling examples from multiple disciplines illustrate the use of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods orientations to theory construction. The text also offers practical advice for writing effectively about theories in papers and grant applications. Readers learn by doing via application and concept exercises, demonstration boxes, and practical guidelines. The extensive companion website ( includes PowerPoint slides of all of the book’s figures, primers on advanced topics, video demonstrations, supplemental exercises, and other resources.

New to This Edition Pedagogical Features

This title is part of the Methodology in the Social Sciences Series, edited by Todd D. Little, PhD.

“This book provides a unique and important contribution about a neglected process central to the social sciences. It stands above all other books on theory construction in its insights, clarity, breadth, and practical focus. On each reading, I discover new and useful advice to help both young and experienced researchers bring creative and rigorous thinking to their work. The writing style feels like a conversation with these highly successful authors, rather than a formal treatise on each topic. The book’s multidisciplinary approach highlights the importance of theory construction using a wide range of tools: mathematical or quantitative, conceptual, and qualitative or observational. New chapters and other new content in the second edition are important and welcome additions. This invaluable book belongs on the shelf of every graduate student who pursues research, and is extremely useful for practitioners who need to critically read research reports.”

—David Brinberg, PhD, R. O. Goodykoontz Professor of Marketing, Virginia Tech

“This exceptional second edition focuses on how to ask and answer research questions in a way that will lead to sound conceptualizations and theory development. Written in an engaging, vivid, and crystal-clear manner, the book includes hands-on, tricks-of-the-trade approaches. Every page reflects the joy and satisfaction that come with fostering scientific creativity to address social and clinical science problems. The companion website has very detailed and informative resources. Filling a gap in its emphasis on how to do theory-driven science, this amazing, unique text has much to offer to students and new and seasoned researchers.”

—Wendy K. Silverman, PhD, ABPP, Alfred A. Messer Professor of Child Psychiatry and Director, Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program, Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine

“Essential reading for students in the social sciences, this book removes the mystery behind learning to think like a scientist. Jaccard and Jacoby teach the tricks of the trade—the cognitive maneuvers, representational strategies, and creativity heuristics—that any researcher can employ to build stronger, more informative, and testable theories. No other source covers the range of strategies for increasing the impact and relevance of theories. This book can serve as a stand-alone text in courses devoted to theory construction or as a supplemental text in more general courses on scientific and research methods. The new companion website for the second edition is invaluable; it presents useful exercises to help students build working knowledge of the concepts and strategies in the text.”

—Hart Blanton, PhD, Department of Communication, Texas A&M University

“How exciting! In this second edition, readers are going to find new concepts and methods for infusing theory into quantitative and qualitative research. Jaccard and Jacoby continue to take on the big ideas in social science research methods with clear exposition of complex topics and balanced guidance for new scholars.”

—Sean Kelly, PhD, Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, University of Pittsburgh School of Education

“This outstanding book helps students understand the fundamentals of what a good theory is and how to use research to construct theories. It also shows how theory is used to guide the development of measures and interventions. It is a ‘must read’ for all doctoral students. Among the enhancements of the second edition is the great companion website, which offers resources and learning tools related to every chapter. I use this book in a doctoral-level class on theories and would recommend it to anyone who teaches theory to doctoral students.”

—Cynthia G. S. Franklin, PhD, Associate Dean for Doctoral Education and Stiernberg/Spencer Family Professor in Mental Health, School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin

“At a time when science is often misunderstood if not outright denigrated by the lay public, it is essential that aspiring social scientists come to learn how theories should be formulated, tested, and revised. As a complement to textbooks focused on research methods and statistics, this beautifully written book on how to construct and evaluate theories—better than any other I’ve seen—will equip students and young scientists for this very purpose.”

—Saul Kassin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Table of Contents

I. Basic Concepts

1. Introduction

2. The Nature of Understanding

3. Science as an Approach to Understanding sample

II. Core Processes

4. Creativity and the Generation of Ideas

5. Focusing Concepts

6. Thought Experiments for Variable Relationships

III. Frameworks for Theory Construction

7. Causal Models

8. Mathematical Modeling

9. Simulation as a Theory Development Method

10. Emergent Theory: Qualitative/Mixed Method Approaches

11. Emergent Theory: Quantitative Approaches

12. Historically Influential Systems of Thought

IV. Theory at the Level of Measurement

13. Theory and Measurement: General Frameworks

14. Types of Measurement Strategies

V. Concluding Issues

15. Theory Revision

16. Reading and Writing about Theories

17. Epilogue

About the Authors

James Jaccard, PhD, is Professor of Social Work at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University. Previously, he was Distinguished Professor of Psychology for 20 years at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and Professor of Psychology at Florida International University for 8 years. Dr. Jaccard has authored or edited numerous books and has published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He has served on numerous boards and panels for the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and for the National Institutes of Health. His research focuses broadly on attitudes, cognitions, and emotions as they affect decision making, especially in applied settings. This includes research on adolescent decision making, health-related decisions, and a critical analysis of the effects of unconscious influences on adult decision making.

Jacob Jacoby, PhD, until his death in 2018, was Merchants Council Professor of Consumer Behavior at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He authored or edited several books and published over 160 articles in peer-reviewed social science and law journals. Dr. Jacoby was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and a Fellow and past president of the Association for Consumer Research. His research on the factors that affect consumer decision making and behavior was honored by awards from the American Psychological Association, the American Marketing Association, the American Academy of Advertising, the Association for Consumer Research, and the Society for Consumer Psychology. He conducted research or consulted for dozens of Fortune 500 companies and other organizations in the United States and internationally. He also worked for federal agencies (including the U.S. Senate, Federal Trade Commission, and Food and Drug Administration) and testified in more than 100 cases heard in U.S. District Courts.


Graduate students in psychology, human development, family studies, education, sociology, social work, nursing, public health, communication, management, and political science; early-career social and behavioral scientists.

Course Use

Serves as a primary text in graduate-level courses in theory construction or as a supplemental text in courses on research methodology, theories of a particular discipline, grant writing, or the dissertation.
Previous editions published by Guilford:

First Edition, © 2010
ISBN: 9781606233399
New to this edition: