Development studies navigate between policy and social science; between directed progress and change. However, the relative propinquity of social science and policy languages sometimes masks the difference between the two. This article discusses the relationship between development as social change and as a craft and argues for the necessity of recognizing their difference. Moreover, as a social science, development studies also navigate between theoretical generalization and descriptive particularism. By making a distinction between explanatory and heuristic frameworks, development studies can be normalized as a science and thus able to study a contextual moving target while drawing on a general or ‘grand theory'.