2 Theoretical Concepts: The Building Blocks of Theory

Concepts are the building blocks of theories—the things being studied, compared, and related to one another. A concept is an abstraction that describes a portion of reality. It is a general name for specific instances of the phenomenon described. For example, the concept education (a generalization) describes the aggregate of people's specific learning experiences. The concept mass media use (a generalization) describes the aggregate of individuals’ specific reading, viewing, and listening behaviors with the mass media. The terms construct and concept are sometimes used interchangeably, with one scholar referring to a term as a concept, and another as a construct. Differences in the use of the terms construct and concept center on assumptions about just how abstract the generalization is, with constructs being more abstract or general than concepts. For example, we could call mass media use a construct that includes the following more specific concepts: television exposure, newspaper exposure, ...

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