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Theory in a PhD study

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This presentation looks at different ways in which 'theory' is linked to a PhD study.

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Theory in a PhD study

  1. 1. Theory ina PhD studyFor PhD Researchers 01 July 2011 Dr Palitha Edirisingha University of Leicester, UK.
  2. 2. ReferencesGilbert, N. (2008) Researching Social Life, 3rd Edn. London: Sage.Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, 3rd Edn. Oxford:Oxford University Press.Punch, K. F. (2006) Developing Effective Research Proposals, 2ndEdn. London: Sage.Carey, M. (2009) The Social Work Dissertation: Using Small-ScaleQualitative Methodology. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill and OpenUniversity Press.White, P. (2009) Developing Research Questions: A guide for socialscientists: Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. 3. Theories are nets to catch what we call the world: torationalise, explain and master it Popper 1959: 2002, pp. 37-38, in White, 2009, p. 23
  4. 4. Characterising the nature of the link between theory and research is by no means a straightforward matter Bryman, 2008, p. 6
  5. 5. "theory is a contested term.While many people write about "theory", they are not always referring to exactly the same thing, ... White, 2009, p. 23
  6. 6. Theory in ....Role: deductive OR inductiveKnowledge: epistemology, ontologyResearch paradigm: interpretivism, positivismData collection and analytical strategies: e.g.,grounded theory
  7. 7. • What form of theory?• Whether the purpose of data is • to test or • to build theories Bryman, 2008, p. 6
  8. 8. Types of theory Literature acting as proxy for theory Middle range theories (Merton 1967) Grand theories (Bryman, 2008)
  9. 9. Middle range Grand theories theories• social capital • labour process theory• cultural capital • educational attainment• symbolic interactionism • assessment theories?• critical theory • Approaches to learning?• too abstract and general • between grand theories and empirical• offer few indications to researchers findings as to how they might guide or • represent an attempt to understand influence the collection of empirical and explain a limited aspect of social evidence. life (Bryman, 2008, p. 6-7)
  10. 10. Linking theory with research Theory-first Theory-afterTheory testing - with the Theory generation -research questions relating to Identifying gaps in existingtheir ability to help us theories - research to generateunderstand a particular aspect theory in order to make up forof the social world. (White, this absence (White, 2009, p.2009, p. 24-25) 24-25)
  11. 11. Literature acting as proxy for theoryThe term theory is frequentlyused in a manner that meanslittle more than the background Purpose:literature in an area of social • To resolve an inconsistencyinquiry (Bryman, 2008, p. 8) between different findings/ interpretations of findings"theory" may be little more • To address a neglected area of athan the literature on a certain topictopic in the form of • To provide an alternativeaccumulated knowledge gleaned approach to that in literaturefrom books andarticles (Bryman, 2008, p. 8)Can be critiqued as naive empiricism (Bryman, 2008)
  12. 12. How do youcharacterise theuse of theory inyour PhD study?
  13. 13. Use of theory in research• Guides and influences the collection and analysis of data - deductive theory• Occurs after the collection and analysis of some or all of the data associated with a project - inductive theory (Bryman, 2008)
  14. 14. Deductive theory Deduce a translated into Operational terms hypothesis specifying how data Concepts can be collected in researchable entities relation to the questions concepts that make up the hypothesis Middle-range theory based on what is ‘to guide known in the empirical inquiry’ domain and (Merton, 1967, p. 39) theoretical consideration Findings fed back into the stock of Theory theory and knowledge in the domain Empirical study[revision of] implications of findings for the theory Theory (adapted from Bryman, 2008)
  15. 15. Inductive theory• Theory an outcome of research• Drawing generalisable inferences out of observations.• Iterative. ‘once the phase of theoretical reflection on a set of data has been carried out, the researcher ..collect[s] further data in order to establish the conditions in which a theory will and will not hold’ (p. 12)• ... ‘weaving back and forth between data and theory. ... particularly evident in grounded theory (p. 12).• Evident in the way theoretical ideas being derived from data, rather than formed before-hand.• Use of the ground theory approach to the analysis of data and to the generation of theory.• ... ‘very often what one ends up with can often be little more than empirical generalisations (p. 12). (Bryman, 2008)
  16. 16. And what about you? Inductive? Deductive? Mix and match?
  17. 17. Grounded theoryGlaser and Strauss (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research
  18. 18. Grounded theory not a theory - ... an approach to the generation of theory out of data (Bryman 2008, p. 541) An strategy of qualitative data analysis An approach to data collectionAn iterative process of data collection and analysis
  19. 19. • For the analysis of data and to the generation of theory• Useful for generating theory out of data
  20. 20. ...grounded theory is honoured more in breach than inthe observance, .... claims are often made that grounded theory has been used but ... Evidence of this being the case is at best uncertain (Brayman, 1988: 85, 91; Locke 1996; Charmaz, 2000, in Brayman, 2008: p. 541)
  21. 21. Before applying this label to a research project, however, you should be aware that grounded theoryentails a specific set of procedures and strategies for the achievement of such empirically embedded forms of understanding (Hodkinson 2008)
  22. 22. The tendency for dissertation and research students to claim the use of grounded theory in their methodologychapters, without any details or reflection on the way in which they used these procedures and strategies, does not go down at all well with examiners (Hodkinson 2008, p. 83)
  23. 23. When describing your methodology, provide detail and reflection on the approach you took to the collection and analysis of data - dont use a label like grounded theory without elaborating (Hodkinson 2008, p. 83).
  24. 24. Any groundedtheory users?
  25. 25. Theory asPerspective Overall design and orientationTheory asSubstantivetheory
  26. 26. Perspective• A particular perspective, philosophical position, paradigm or meta-theory which lies behind and informs research (Punch, 2006)
  27. 27. Paradigm• A set of assumptions about the social world• What constitute proper techniques and topics for inquiring into that world• A broad term encompassing elements of epistemology, theory, philosophy, methods..• Positivism, post-positivism, critical theory, constructivism (Punch, 2006)
  28. 28. Meta-theory• Ideas about conceptions of science. … what a scientist should and can do. Thoughts about what is scientifically possible and what is not.• Logical empirisism, post-empiricism, critical rathinalism, critical theory, phenomenology. Ermeneutics, systems theory. (Punch, 2006)
  29. 29. Perspectives or positions• Paradigms and meta-theories as perspectives or positions lie behind research• The idea that there might be a particular paradigm or meta-theory or philosophical position behind the research• Other perspectives than noted above as paradigms and meta-theories …• Feminism, post-modernism, symbolic interactionism, semiotics, ethnomethodology, discourse analysis, conversational analysis. (Punch, 2006)
  30. 30. Perspectives or positions• Influences the researcher in many ways• Making certain assumptions• Influence on what issues to focus• How research questions are asked• Choice of methods (Punch, 2006)
  31. 31. Perspectives or positions - Examples• a feminist study of participation in unions• a critical theory study of life in asylums• a constructivist study of curriculum development in science• a post-positivist study of quality assurance procedures in education (Punch, 2006)
  32. 32. However....• Not all research begins or proceeds from a perspective• Some research can begin with a pragmatic approach of questions that need answers (Punch, 2006)
  33. 33. Theory (substantive theory)• theory about a substantive issue or phenomenon• both describes and explains the phenomenon of substantive interest (Punch, 2006)
  34. 34. Theory (substantive theory) Important for us because ...a common criterion among universities forthe award of the doctorate centres on the"substantial and original contribution toknowledge" the study makes, and the"substantial" part of the criterion is ofteninterpreted in terms of substantive theory. (Punch, 2006, p. 33)
  35. 35. Theory (substantive theory)Examples: • learning theories and personal construct theory (psychology) • reference group theory and social stratification theory (sociology) • theories of children’s moral development and of teachers career styles (education) • leadership theories (management and administration) (Punch, 2006)
  36. 36. The relationship of the study to the literature • Where does the study fit in relation to literature? • What is its connection to that literature? • How will the research move beyond previous work / beyond what we already know? • What contributions will this study make to the literature? (Punch, 2006)
  37. 37. The relationship of the study to the literature • Fills a gap in the literature • Sits in line with the main trends in the literature • Seeks to extend these trends • Takes a different direction from those in the literature • Confirms, challenges or disconfirms other findings (a replication study) • Tests / extends a theory from the literature • Uses a theoretical framework or model from the literature (Punch, 2006)
  38. 38. Quan%ta%ve Qualita%veRole of theory  deduc%ve, tes%ng theory induc%ve, genera%on of theoryEpistemological  prac%ces and norms of the  preference for an emphasis on how orienta%on natural science model (posi%vism) people interpret their world  (interpre%vism)Ontological  social reality as an external,  social reality as constantly shiAing orienta%on objec%ve reality (objec%vism) emergent property of individuals  crea%on (construc%onism) quan%fica%on in the collec%on  words rather than quan%fica%on in the  and analysis of data collec%on and analysis of data (Bryman, 2008)
  39. 39. How are you doingwith theory so far?
  40. 40. Research questions?Research strategy?
  41. 41. deductive (theory guides research)Theory andresearch inductive (theory as an outcomes of research)Epistemological positivism (a natural science epistemology)considerations interpretivismOntological objectivismconsiderations constructivismResearch quantitative and qualitativestrategyInfluences on valuesthe conduct practical considerations (Bryman, 2008)
  42. 42. Thank u! pe27@le.ac.uk