Many journal articles start with the phrase: "Towards a theory of...", as in these real examples from diverse fields:
"Towards a theory of innovation in services" (Management)
"Towards a theory of soft terms for the supersymmetric Standard Model" (Physics)
"Towards a theory of communicative competence" (Sociology, Linguistics)
"Towards a theory of parallel programming" (Computer Science)
My literal interpretation is that a full theory is not being presented; instead, the article presents useful elements or steps.
But I wonder if this phrase is overused and tired. It seems like it could be a mask or even false modesty, perhaps to deflect criticism. My inclination is to avoid it if my article actually presents a theory, or most elements of a theory. I would be inclined to use it only if the article was presenting a primarily a directional argument, i.e. "go this way, and not that way" to make progress on this theory.
Question: Do you think this phrase is tired, and therefore should be avoided when possible? Or do you think it is valid and should not be avoided?
I'm looking for answers that are based on experience, conventions, and norms in particular fields and institutions.