theories of the middle range
theories of the middle rangetheories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance in day-to-day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behaviour, organization and social change’ (MERTON, 1949). As identified by Merton, compared with ‘general theories’ which may be remote from particular classes of social behaviour, such middle-range theories are ‘close enough to observed data to be incorporated in propositions that permit empirical testing’. The construction of such theories was an important part of Merton's doctrine that in sociology pieces of empirical research were often too much divorced from one another. In the course of his own career in sociology Merton has been responsible for the development of important middle-range theories in many areas, including contributions to the theory of REFERENCE GROUPS, BUREAUCRACY, MASS COMMUNICATIONS, many of these represented in his Social Theory and Social Structure (1949 and subsequent editions). Compare MILLS, ABSTRACTED EMPIRICISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000