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The evaluation of a middle range theory is an important step in the process of utilizing it for research. It is not enough to simply accept a theory without proper evaluation, as this could lead to incorrect assumptions or improper conclusions being drawn from the research. Therefore, it is important to assess the theory and its ability to be adapted for use in research. In order to do this, internal and external criticism are two approaches that can be used to evaluate middle range theories.
Internal criticism is concerned with the internal consistency of the theory and involves examining the internal components of the theory to assess its validity and strength. This type of critique is typically focused on the logical connections between the components of the theory. For example, Bryant, Horne, and Tocci (2020) discussed how the theory of planned behavior (TPB) can be used to explain and predict health behaviors. To assess the internal consistency of this theory, they used a systematic review to examine the logical connections of the components of the TPB. This review revealed that while the internal logic of the theory was generally robust, there were still some important issues that needed to be addressed.
External criticism, on the other hand, focuses on assessing the theory against external criteria, such as evidence from empirical studies or other theories. This form of critique is used to assess the appropriateness of the theory in relation to its intended purpose. For instance, Lefkowich, Allaire, and Mays (2020) evaluated the ability of the concept mapping technique to provide insight into the social determinants of health. To assess the appropriateness of this technique, they looked at the evidence from various empirical studies and found that while concept mapping could provide valuable insight into the social determinants of health, it was limited in the range of applications it could be used for.
Finally, it is also important to consider the utility of the theory when evaluating its ability to be adapted for research. This involves assessing the practical implications of the theory and its ability to be applied to real-world contexts. For example, Sautter, Iglesias, and Popper (2020) discussed the utility of the theory of transformative learning for professional education. To assess the utility of this theory, they looked at the practical implications of the theory and the ways in which it could be applied to the educational context. Their findings showed that while the theory of transformative learning could be a useful tool for professional education, it was also important to consider the implications for practice in order to maximize its potential for success.
In conclusion, internal and external criticism are two approaches that can be used to evaluate middle range theories in order to assess their ability to be adapted for use in research. Internal criticism evaluates the internal components of the theory, while external criticism assesses the appropriateness of the theory in relation to its intended purpose. Finally, it is important to consider the utility of the theory in order to assess its practical implications and its ability to be applied to real-world contexts.