Skip to main content

middle-range theory

middle-range theory Advocated by the distinguished American sociologist Robert Merton in Social Theory and Social Structure (1957) to bridge the gap between the limited hypotheses of empiricist studies and grand abstract theory of the sort produced by Talcott Parsons. He describes middle-range theories as ‘theories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance in day to day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behaviour, organization and social change’. Merton consistently argued for, and demonstrated the necessity of, this sort of work in a long series of convincing sociological essays in such areas as structural-functional theory and the sociologies of science, deviance, organizations and occupations. Many of the concepts developed in these theories have become part of the basic sociological lexicon (and are therefore given separate entries in this dictionary): retreatism, ritualism, manifest and latent functions, opportunity structure, paradigm, reference group, role-sets, self-fulfilling prophecy, and unintended consequences. The idea of middle-range theory has directly and indirectly been an important influence on the way many sociologists see their work. The full range of the discussion stimulated by Merton's work is most evident in the excellent collection of commentaries edited by Jon Clark et al. , Robert K. Merton: Consensus and Controversy (1990)
.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"middle-range theory." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"middle-range theory." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/middle-range-theory

"middle-range theory." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/middle-range-theory

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.