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Theoretical Approaches

Provide a response to the following:

This week you will consider various theories that may provide a framework within which a researcher could develop a research topic. Have you encountered a dispute between theories (or approaches) on your particular topic? Explain how a multidisciplinary approach would work (or not) on your particular topic.

  • Provide evidence from the weekly readings to support your arguments via APA parenthetical citations.
  • Other sources (if used at all) must be subordinate to your understanding of the readings presented in the class.

Instructions: Your initial post should be at least 500 words.

Here is the reading information:

First, let’s review the definition of a theory. Will Moore provides an excellent recap:

“The term ‘theory’ should be reserved for collections of statements that propose causal explanations of phenomenaand meet the following three criteria. First, most political scientists would agree that the statements that compose a theory should be internally consistent. Second, most political scientists would also agree that theories should be logically complete (i.e., the hypotheses deduced from the theory should follow logically from the assumptions of the theory). Third, most political scientists would agree that the set of statements must have falsifiable implications.” (Moore 2001, 1)

And to review the criteria for a good theory, Will provides a current set of desirable qualities in this excerpt:

“I describe six criteria over which political scientists should compare theories. First, many scholars argue that theories should be evaluated based on their ability to produce hypotheses that are consistent with relevant evidence. Second, many scholars contend that one should prefer general theories to less general theories. Third, one should prefer theories that produce several hypotheses to those that produce few. Fourth, Lakatos (1970) has proposed that we evaluate research programs rather than individual theories, and that we do so on the basis of whether they are degenerative or progressive. Fifth, we might compare the implications, preferring theories that have several policy implications to those which have few. Finally, parsimony or simplicity is generally considered a virtue.” (Moore 2001, 4)

Theory in the Field of Homeland Security, Intelligence, International Relations and National Security

The disciplines in the School of Security and Global Studies draw from theoretical models from multiple disciplines, to include criminal justice, history, geography, economics, psychology, social science, international relations, and comparative analysis, not to mention the more technical fields of study such as science, math, and information technology. From the time that the CIA was created by the 1947 National Security Act, there has been an ongoing effort to create a body of multidisciplinary knowledge to serve as the underpinnings for security and intelligence research and analysis. The below excerpt from Sherman Kent, the person who institutionalized the concept of “strategic intelligence” and his body of work remains relevant today. In this excerpt, published in the Studies in Intelligence Journal in 1955, he writes about the need for a body of literature and theory in the field of intelligence:

“Intelligence today is not merely a profession, but like most professions it has taken on the aspects of a discipline: it has developed a recognized methodology; it has developed a vocabulary; it has developed a body of theory and doctrine; it has elaborate and refined techniques. It now has a large professional following. What it lacks is a literature. From my point of view this is a matter of greatest importance.

As long as this discipline lacks a literature, its method, its vocabulary, its body of doctrine, and even its fundamental theory run the risk of never reaching full maturity. I will not say that you cannot have a discipline without a literature, but I will assert that you are unlikely to have a robust and growing discipline without one.

Let me be clear about this literature that we lack. First, let me say what I do not mean that we are lacking. I do not mean the substantive findings of intelligence. Manifestly, I do not mean those thousands of words we disseminate each day about past, present, and probable future goings on all over the world. I do not refer to the end product of all of our labors. We produce a great deal of this sort of literature and possibly we produce too much of it. It is not that literature that I am talking about. What I am talking about is a literature dedicated to the analysis of our many-sided calling and produced by its most knowledgeable devotees. The sort of literature I am talking about is of the nature of house organ literature, but much more. You might call it the institutional mind and memory of our discipline. When such a literature is produced, it does many things to advance the task.

The most important service that such a literature performs is the permanent recording of our new ideas and experiences. When we record we not only make possible easier and wider communication of thought, but we also take a rudimentary step towards making our findings cumulative. We create a stock of relatively imperishable thinking that one man can absorb without coming into personal contact with its originator and against which he can weigh and measure his own original ideas. His large or small addition to the stock enriches it. The point is reached where an individual mind, capable of using the stock, can in a day encompass the accumulated wisdom of man-decades of reflection and action.

Consider such disciplines as chemistry or medicine or economics and ask yourself where they would be today if their master practitioners had committed no more to paper than ours. Where would we be if each new conscript to medicine had to start from scratch with no more to guide him than the advice of fellow doctors and his own experience? Where would we be in medicine if there was nothing to read and nothing to study, no textbooks, no monographs, no specialized journals, no photographs, no charts, no illustrations, no association meetings with papers read and discussed and circulated in written form? Where would we be if no one aspired to the honor of publishing an original thought or concept or discovery in the trade journals of his profession? It is not impossible that bloodletting would still be considered a valuable panacea and exposure to night swamp air the specific for syphilis.”

Excerpted from Sherman Kent, “The Need for An Intelligence Literature”. You can access the
complete article here: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/sherman-kent-and-the-board-of-national-estimates-collected-essays/2need.html

Your readings will provide you a range of theories and some might be more helpful to you as you continue your research process. A relatively new theory in the security and intelligence world is the mosaic theory, a theory that claims that individuals can take seemingly innocuous pieces of information and consolidate it into a coherent and potentially dangerous body of information can that be employed against national security. Read the article here: Dale Pozen, “The Mosaic Theory, National Security, and the Freedom of Information Act”

Your readings this week provide more detail on different types of theories and their role in understanding the events of the world around us.

  • The Lecture by Tim O’Connor provides a great description of the history of theory use and evolution and provides a good description of several of the “grand theories”, which have been the foundations for an exponential amount of subsequent variations on those original theories. Theories may have slightly different in different field of social science and political science theory.
  • Will Moore describes the characteristics of good theory and how one can judge the quality and utility of one theory over another.

References:

Central Intelligence Agency Center for Studies in Intelligence. Sherman Kent essay “The Need for an Intelligence Literature” reprinted from the Studies in Intelligence Journal, 1955. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/sherman-kent-and-the-board-of-national-estimates-collected-essays/2need.html (accessed June 4, 2012).

Moore, Will. 2001. Evaluating Theory in Political Science.

http://mailer.fsu.edu/~whmoore/garnet-whmoore/theoryeval.pdf (accessed March 12, 2012).

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