How to Write a Theory

Take it slow when forming a theory.

Before you consider writing your theory, choose an important topic and conduct research. Select something of interest that you wish to share with others. The theory may be a problem with gaps in the premise. It may also be a subject that needs updating because of new findings; it may be something the previous author wasn't privy to when she wrote her thesis. Theories are scientific. To write a good theory, learn the scientific method.

List what you hope to accomplish.

Jot down the goals of your theory paper clearly and succinctly. Start with a topic sentence, making sure that your argument engages or sparks interest for both you and your audience. You can't hope to interest your reading audience unless you're passionate about the subject, too. Do keep your goal in mind during the process of coming up with a written theory.

Read as much as possible about your subject.

Review the literature. Read books, journals and peer-reviewed articles. During the research, take copious notes on ideas that you agree with. This will help you form the paper in an unbiased way. Next, jot down those items that you disagree with and believe need clarification or will help you come up with a theory. Try to understand each author's premise before forming your own.

Write what you think is true about the topic.

Write a hypothesis or an assumption from the research notes. Take your time. Work and rework the hypothesis. It should state exactly what you intend to find out about the independent and dependent variables. The independent variables experience no changes in regard to the dependent variables; however, dependent variables are affected by changes in the independent variables.

Decide how you'll test your theory.

Write out in detail how you plan to test the theory. Consider surveys, observation, interviews, tests, experiments and/or assessments. Make sure the testing method is suitable for your experiment. You don't want to test five-year-old children for an experiment better suited for adults, such as self-report surveys.

Categorize your findings.

Compile and organize the findings. Does the hypothesis still hold true? If not, rework it according to the results. Do not try to fit the hypothesis to personal opinion; instead, remain objective throughout the research.

Write your theory.

Write your theory, in a few sentences, based on your findings. Also, include information that goes against your ideas or thesis statement. Make the theory as well-rounded as possible. Stick to your goal, but let others know where to find different points of view.

Juanita King began writing in 1971. She holds a master's degree in written communication and a master's degree in human development with a post-master's degree in counseling from National-Louis University.