Difference Between Paradigm and Theory

Paradigm vs Theory

The key difference between paradigm and theory is that a theory provides us with an explanation of a phenomenon while a paradigm acts as a theoretical or else a philosophical framework. This article attempts to further explain both concepts and the difference between them as both, paradigm and theory, are important concepts in all sciences, and we hear them used very often. Paradigm and theory are two different concepts, but are related to one another,  A single paradigm can have a number of theories within and assists academics to formulate theories using the paradigm as a reference.

What is a Theory?

As mentioned above, a theory explains a phenomenon or presents a relationship that exists. It allows us to understand the nature of a certain phenomenon and the causal relationships that exist in it. Theories provide us with a generalized picture usually without any exceptions. Theories are testable and can be falsified. A theory always has evidence and can be tested by anyone and acquire the same result which guarantees the truth it holds. In all sciences, there are theories that create new knowledge and brings about development in a particular science. In order to come up with a theory a certain procedure has to be followed. The theorist engages in experiments, observations and uses a variety of scientific methods in order to logically build up a theory. Theorists also use hypothesis that are tested again and again in order to create a theory. Newton’s law of gravity and Marx’s theory of class are some examples for theories.

What is a Paradigm?

Unlike a theory, a paradigm is much broader. It refers to a theoretical framework. Just as theories, in all sciences, there are paradigms that work as frames of reference that help academics to channel their observations and findings. They are not very explicit as theories. It is paradigms that usually lay behind theories allowing us to look at things in a particular angel. It provides us with an outlook to understanding things. Let us try to understand what is meant by a paradigm through an example. In Sociology, there are a number of paradigms also known as perspectives that help us t o understand the society. For example, structuralism, functionalism and Marxism are some such paradigms. Each gives us a basic model which assists to build theories and work as a frame of reference. In Marxism, the society is understood through class conflict. So for theories, this provides the basic understanding and the groundwork.

However, unlike in the social sciences, in pure sciences such as physics there is an absolute truth. In this case, two paradigms cannot stand together. This is then considered a paradigm shift.

Difference Between Paradigm and Theory

What is the difference between Paradigm and Theory?

• A theory explains and brings about the causal relationships in a phenomenon.

• A theory can be considered as a creation of new knowledge.

• A theory is always testable and can be falsified.

• A paradigm, on the other hand, refers to a theoretical as well as a philosophical framework.

• A paradigm acts as a frame of reference.

• It is often implicit and works as an embodiment of theories


Images Courtesy:

  1. 21st Century Relationship Paradigm by Wizxmat (CC BY-SA 3.0)