Saturday, December 27, 2014

Proposition: A Building Block of Theory

The purpose and  categories of propositions are explained well in the article The Proposition: An insight into research  by   B. I. Avan  ( The Human Development Programme, The Aga Khan University, Karachi. )  and F. White  ( Department of Community Health Sciences, The Aga Khan University, Karachi. )

Each category is given examples. See the above paper for examples. Only the explanations of  types of  propositions are included in this blog post.

Propositions form the basis for scientific research.

Propositions form the premise for the deduction of hypothesis.

A proposition is a statement.

Propositions can be broadly categorised into non-relational and relational propositions.

A concept is a title given to an abstract idea, event or object. These are based on real world experiences and represent a generalised mental picture of characteristics of that phenomenon.

The non-relational proposition is a declarative statement, which serves the purpose of identification of concepts and defining the distinct characteristics of the concept to the required level. The concept can have various facets and a declarative statement can be about any aspect of the concept.

The Existential non-Relational Proposition recognises the presence of a concept

Or it can go one step further by recognising the level or intensity of presence of a concept.

The Definitional proposition is a statement, which describes the characteristics of the concept. A concept can have a multitude of aspects. It is not necessary in research that a concept should be considered in a holistic manner.

Defining a concept aims to state it in a precise nature and give it distinct characteristics. The focus of this effort is to limit the idea of the concept so that it becomes identifiable and calculable. Sometimes it even describes the degree of distinctness so that it can be better differentiated from other concepts.

Any concept when we grade it for measurement purposes is conventionally known as a variable in research terminology.

Definition propositions are not limited to the concepts that are evaluated in the research. They are even extended to the methodology aspect of the research. Well known general methodology concepts, unless some innovation is considered, explicit definitions are usually not given e.g. study designs. But concepts which are specific to the study; are defined explicitly and precisely e.g. study population.

Initially for the theory, definitions of concepts are delineated by a parameter of convention not of verification. It is later in the process of theory development, that steps are taken to measure and study the concepts empirically. The process takes place at two levels.

Nominal definitions are constitutive statements, which are an aspect or aspects of the concept that we are considering for research.

Operational definitions are real statements of measurement-orientated interpretation of concepts. These definitions deal with the practical aspects of research in relation to concepts. They can be further categorised into measured and experimental.

Experimental Operational Definitions’ describe how a nominal concept is manipulated, to make it measurable in the research process, in a manner devised by the researcher.

Measured operational Definitions state how a nominal proposition can be measured in a standardised conventional manner.

Sometimes it becomes more meaningful to combine various measurements, as relying on only one type of measurement could not effectively capture the required scope of the concept. Therefore an index is formed. The indices are usually a combination of the measurement,

Example: - Human Development index (HDI) of a country.

Empirical Indicators are the next logical step of operational definitions. To increase the utility of the indices, indicators are constructed upon them. A cut off value is decided conventionally among the range of values of an index. The ones that have achieved above that cut off value constitute one category and those below are also labelled as another category.

The Relational Proposition is a declarative statement that serves the purpose for identification of association between concepts and defining distinctive characteristics to a required level.

The Existential Relational Proposition is a declaration that the association between the two concepts is a repetitious association and is not a solitary, onetime phenomenon.

Nature of Relational Proposition

The Correlation Proposition states the covariation between related concepts. The direction and degree of change are specific for each association.
The Positively correlated Proposition states that if one-concept changes, the other concept would also change in the same direction.

The Negatively correlated Proposition states that if one-concept changes, the other concept also changes inversely or indirectly.

The Symmetrical Relational Proposition
(ambivalent) states that two concepts have a reversible relationship. i. c. if a change occurs in one concept, then the other concept will also change, and vice versa. (Two way causality)

The Non-Symmetrical Relational Proposition states that two concepts have a non-reversible relationship i.e., if change occur in one concept then other concept will change also but not vice versa. (One way causality)

Order of Relational Proposition states that either the concepts exist simultaneously or they are following one another. Propositions are usually assessed over a period of time.

The Concurrent Relational Proposition recognises the existence of  two concepts together but is not sure of their time order and both concepts are observable simultaneously. Usually such propositions are found in case series, cross sectional studies etc.

The Sequential Relational Proposition goes one step further in identifying. the following concept. In other words in a relation, the preceding and proceeding concepts are identified. Usually such propositions are found in longitudinal studies.

The Magnitude of effect proposition states what proportion people, exposed to a preceding concept, develop a sequential or proceeding concept or vice versa. There are specific measures for the magnitude of effect according to the study methodology applied for data collection.

The Stochastic Relational Proposition states that there is an element of probability or chance in the occurrence of a specified relationship between the concepts.

The Causality of Relational Proposition introduces the idea of a relationship between input and outcome concepts. Causality can be viewed in a number of ways in the relational propositions, i.e. necessary, sufficient, substitutive and contingency.

The Necessary Relational Proposition states that if and only if an input concept is present then the outcome concept will occur, or it is not possible for outcome concept to occur without the first occurrence of specific input concept.

The Sufficient Relational Proposition of causality states that an input concept alone is enough to cause outcome concept to occur.

The Substitutive Relational Proposition of causality states that from a certain group of specified input concepts, if any one is present the outcome concept will occur.

The Regulatory Relational Proposition of causality states that the relationship between the input and outcome concept is contingent upon or influenced by the presence of a third concept.

In causal propositions, the intervening concept could be an intermediary step of input concept producing an outcome.

In such cases, the state of contingency is being decided by what we have decided as our limit or outcome in a process. Furthermore, different contingency concepts are identified as research methods become more advanced, or instruments become more sophisticated. Another variant of regulatory proposition is when the intervening concept is not an actual part of the relationship between concepts but acts as an extraneous factor which could influence the magnitude of effect of association between the relational concepts. This extraneous factor is also known as confounding.

The proposition justifies a concept in terms of its existence, explanation and relationship with other concepts.

Many scientific papers do not spell out propositions clearly - It needs to be emphasized. 

One of the main objectives of scientific literature review is to identify the propositions presented in the reports. Unfortunately, they are not obvious mostly. Instead of formally stating, the writer of a scientific report assumes that the readers background knowledge and intellect is enough to allow him comprehend the implicit notions of propositions. Sometimes it requires several readings by the reviewer before all potential propositions are identified. A clear and simple categorical statement of non-relational and relational propositions in a scientific report not only enhances the quality of a paper by providing better comprehension, but also minimises the ambiguities and misinterpretations.
Another advantage of a better understanding of the dynamics of propositions is that. right from the beginning, a researcher becomes more focussed and develops a niche for the theoretical precision that he wants, and how to measure that. This helps in specifying the methods of measurement, but also formulating the study goals, objectives, hypotheses and research questions.

Testing the Proposition - An Essential Step of Research Method

Testing the proposition is part of research. Testing of hypothesis is a statistical technique used in testing propositions in research. Proposition is a statement of theory that posits a relationship between a dependent concept  and independent concept. A series of propositions may show relations between number of  concepts.

From the proposition, hypothesis is deduced and tested. Hypothesis is developed for a particular situation that is being used for testing a proposition.

For detailed note on propositions visit:

1.Testing the proposition of long-run monetary neutrality

2. Testing the proposition
Good faith efforts to establish goals and then to collectively and regularly monitor and adjust actions toward them produce results. (Schmoker, 1996)

3. A key proposition of the NJL model is that in evaluating a branded product, consumers do associate the brand with a certain OC and are aware of the brand’s MC. The purpose of the present paper is to suggest a methodology for the testing this proposition and present initial findings of its application.

4. PPP is a long established proposition, which dates from well beyond its first technical exposition
by Cassel (1922). The theory of PPP is essentially the law of one price applied to a basket of
equivalent goods traded internationally.
This article considers whether exchange rates satisfy Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) in the
long-run by testing whether the real exchange rate is stationary. PPP is a critical factor in the
long-run determination of exchange rates. Much of the recent evidence testing the proposition
that the real exchange rate is stationary using univariate time series would suggest that PPP
does not hold as the hypothesis that real exchange rates are stationary is commonly rejected
(see Abuaf and Jorion, 1990).

5. Proposition:  Millenials  learn differently

Most students entering our classrooms were born between 1978 and
1995. Commonly referred to as Millennials, Boomlets, or the Net Generation,
they have been characterized as born consumers, digital natives,
tech-savvy, highly social, always connected, collaborative, multitasking,
impatient, lifestyle-focused, craving of diverse media, desiring
open access to everything, and leading 24/7 lives. No matter their economic
status, they know the World Wide Web, social media, and entertainment
technologies such as film, music, and games as consistent and
constant components of their everyday experience. They share their
thoughts, feelings, and ideas with family and friends electronically, and
they are accustomed to instantaneous information retrieval and communication.
These students interact with the world in radically different
ways than did the generations before them. At Seton Hill University,
we are testing the proposition that they learn differently as well.