A Big Chapter about Small Theories

The author, Laura C. Leviton, discusses the unique contribution to program theory made by Mark W. Lipsey in his chapter titled “Theory as Method: Small Theories of Treatment,” which he wrote in 1993. She describes the work of other social scientists in this field, but it is Lipsey who is most cited for several reasons. First, he explored how to use meta theories of psychology, sociology and other social sciences and apply them to real-world settings. Second, he drew together strands of thought about using theory to develop a coherent and distinctive approach to causal evaluation. Third, he showed evaluators the way to cope with the frustrations of poor outcome measures, underdeveloped programs and underpowered studies.

Lipsey’s chapter remains an important resource for researchers, in particular for the topics of inference and interpretation. He argues that by being specific about program theory it’s possible to go beyond conventional quasi-experiments to obtain strong tests and to establish unprecedented measures of results and interpretation.