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Whose theory is it anyway?
  1. Jennie Popay
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor J Popay
 Lancaster University, Alexandra Square, Lancaster LA1 4YT, UK; j.popay{at}

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Investigations into the role of theory in enhancing our knowledge of the factors that shape levels of and patterns in population health should not be restricted to the domain of researchers.

All journal editors welcome debates but it is perhaps surprising that debate should emerge from the planned publication of a glossary rather than a research paper or opinion piece. But then again this is a glossary (and guide) to “postpositivist theory building for population health”. There’s a lot in here to generate debate. Take the notion of “postpositivism” for example. Arguably it is words like this that have got social science a bad name but whole books have been written about postpositivism and its relation, often tense, with positivism. Then there is that term “population health”. As Dunn notes this is a vague term and therefore leaves lots of room for differing interpretations about what it is and what its primary purpose should be. Finally, and for some most fascinating there is the term “theory”. As the glossary and other commentators highlight there are many differing understandings of the role of theory in relation to population health. But implicit in the glossary and comments is the idea that the relevance of theory to population health is confined to the domain of researchers—and quantitative ones at that! So my contribution to this …

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