4986 theoretical research programs

include detailed discussion and citation of rele
vant examples of each type.


Orienting strategies specify the fundamental
aims and presuppositions that guide theoretical
work. They provide an underlying ontology
(what is to be seen as sociologically real) and
an epistemology (how we know what is real).
They also provide a substantive foundation of
presuppositions about such issues as the nature
of the actor, action, and the social order. Does
the actor have agency? Is action rational? What
is the relative importance of conflict and con
sensus in action? While orienting strategies
provide the meta theoretical framework within
which theoretical research programs may grow,
they generally do not grow significantly or very
rapidly, nor do they generally change in
response to developments in the programs they
There are, however, other elements of orient
ing strategies that do change and grow signifi
cantly in association with theoretical research
programs. The directives of these working stra
tegies are somewhat more specific and concrete
than those of an overarching orienting strategy.
Methodological working strategies provide con
cepts and principles dealing with the nature of
theory, the logic of inquiry, and the criteria for
assessing theories. Herbert Blumers proposal of
a naturalistic method for investigating symbolic
interaction is, for example, a methodological
working strategy. Substantive working strate
gies provide concepts and principles specifying
what properties of actors, action, and society are
considered to be crucial for investigating social
phenomena. They identify what kinds of prob
lems are worth solving and what concepts and
principles to use in solving them. Mertons
proposals for functional analysis represent a
substantive working strategy.
Working strategies play an important role in
determining what the core ideas in a program
should be, what questions should be addressed,
and how they should be investigated. The
answers generated constitute the different the
ories in a program. Methodological working
strategies specify how these theories are to be
constructed and what methodological tools are
to be employed in testing them. The founda
tional directives of orienting strategies provide
the premises that justify working strategies;
working strategies then specify more concretely
how those premises can be realized.
Working strategies do not simply respond
to broad foundational directives. They also
respond to the success or failure of the elabora
tions, proliferants, variants, competitors, and
integrations they stimulate. In fact, an articula
tion of at least some of the elements of a work
ing strategy may only emerge gradually as
theories in a program develop, broaden, and
deepen understanding of the ideas under inves
tigation. (For an illustration of this process, see
the conceptualization of social interaction as a
state organizing process in expectation states
theory, in Berger et al. 1989, 1992). Thus,
working strategies grow and change as a part
of, and in concert with, the theories in the
programs they guide.


Another aspect of the development of theoreti
cal research programs is associated with the
implementation of theoretically based empirical
models for research. Such models may include
specifications of concrete instances of phenom
ena that can be modeled with the concepts and
principles of theories in the program; they may
specify conditions under which the model is
expected to apply; they may identify observa
tional techniques and procedures useful in
applying the model; they may provide ways of
interrelating elements from different theories in
a program to deal with the complexity apparent
in a particular application situation.
These are all issues of relevance in evaluating
theoretical research programs. Models are cen
tral to evaluating the empirical adequacy of a
program in representing specific social situa
tions. They are also useful in specifying the
range of situations and phenomena to which a
program can be applied. Finally, models are
essential in assessing how useful a program
might be as a basis for intervention and change
in specific social situations. (On the role of
models in theory growth, see Berger & Zelditch