The Role of Theory in Empirical Second Language Acquisition Research: An Introduction

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Ashley Beccia
Paige Yi


Theory plays a central role in the development of human knowledge. In essence, theory solves puzzles, or questions about observable phenomena that need to be answered, (Kuhn, 1996). Theorizing about solutions to these puzzles requires working at the edge of uncertainty, making bold postulations, and engaging in what renowned philosopher of science Karl Popper terms critical rationalism; it is through the development of theories that are falsifiable and the subsequent empirical testing of those theories that our knowledge about the world (i.e., of natural phenomena) will progress (Popper, 1968).

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