How to Make Theories Untestable: A Guide to Theorists

The American Sociologist, 8(7): 33-37

8 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2016

See all articles by Clifford Shearing

Clifford Shearing

University of Cape Town; Griffith Institute of Criminology; University of Montreal, School of Criminology; University of New South Wales; University of Toronto

Date Written: February 3, 1978


A cursory glance at the development of sociological theory should indicate to any in dependent observer that any theorist who seeks sociological fame must ensure that his theories are essentially untestable. Despite this, to my knowledge, all writers who have addressed themselves to the question of theory building and this is, surprisingly, particularly true in explicitly pedagogical texts - have inexplicably concerned themselves exclusively with the question of how to construct testable theories. It is hoped that this paper may held redirect attention to what is clearly the more sensible question: how does one construct untestable theories?

Suggested Citation

Shearing, Clifford D, How to Make Theories Untestable: A Guide to Theorists (February 3, 1978). The American Sociologist, 8(7): 33-37, Available at SSRN: or

Clifford D Shearing (Contact Author)

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