Exploring the feasibility of theory synthesis: A worked example in the field of health related risk-taking

Pandora Pound*, Rona Campbell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
305 Downloads (Pure)


The idea of synthesising theory is receiving attention within public health as part of a drive to design theoretically informed interventions. Theory synthesis is not a new idea, however, having been debated by sociologists for several decades. We consider the various methodological approaches to theory synthesis and test the feasibility of one such approach by synthesising a small number of sociological theories relevant to health related risk-taking. The synthesis consisted of three stages: (i) synthesis preparation, wherein parts of relevant theories were extracted and summarised; (ii) synthesis which involved comparing theories for points of convergence and divergence and bringing together those points that converge; and (iii) synthesis refinement whereby the synthesis was interrogated for further theoretical insights. Our synthesis suggests that serious and sustained risk-taking is associated with social isolation, liminality and a person's position in relation to the dominant social group. We reflect upon the methodological and philosophical issues raised by the practice of theory synthesis, concluding that it has the potential to reinvigorate theory and make it more robust and accessible for practical application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-65
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date13 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Structured keywords

  • DECIPHer


  • Interventions
  • Public health
  • Risk-taking
  • Sociology
  • Synthesis
  • Theory

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring the feasibility of theory synthesis: A worked example in the field of health related risk-taking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this