Theory in PhD

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This presentation is about the different ways in which theory is linked to PhD research.

This presentation is about the different ways in which theory is linked to PhD research.

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  • 1. For PhD Researchers 01 July 2011 Dr Palitha Edirisingha University of Leicester, UK. Theory in a PhD study
  • 2. Gilbert, 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 , 2nd Edn . London: Sage. White, P. (2009) Developing Research Questions: A guide for social scientists : Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. References Carey, M. (2009) The Social Work Dissertation: Using Small-Scale Qualitative Methodology. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill and Open University Press.
  • 3.
    • 'Theories are nets to catch what we call 'the world': to rationalise, explain and master it'
    Popper 1959: 2002, pp. 37-38, in White, 2009, p. 23
  • 4.
    • 'Characterising the nature of the link between theory and research is by no means a straightforward matter'
    Bryman, 2008, p. 6
  • 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. Knowledge : epistemology, ontology Data collection and analytical strategies : e.g., grounded theory Role : deductive OR inductive Research paradigm : interpretivism, positivism Theory in ....
  • 7.
    • What form of theory?Whether the purpose of data is
      • to test or
      • to build theories
    Bryman, 2008, p. 6
  • 8. Types of theory Grand theories Middle range theories (Merton 1967) Literature acting as proxy for theory (Bryman, 2008)
  • 9. (Bryman, 2008, p. 6-7) Grand theories Middle range theories
    • social capital
    • cultural capitalsymbolic interactionismcritical theory
    • labour process theory
    • educational attainment
    • assessment theories?
    • Approaches to learning?
    • too abstract and general
    • offer few indications to researchers as to how they might guide or influence the collection of empirical evidence.
    • between grand theories and empirical findings
    • represent an attempt to understand and explain a limited aspect of social life
  • 10. Theory testing - 'with the research questions relating to their ability to help us understand a particular aspect of the social world.' (White, 2009, p. 24-25) Linking theory with research Theory generation - Identifying gaps in existing theories - research 'to generate theory in order to make up for this absence' (White, 2009, p. 24-25) Theory-first Theory-after
  • 11. The term theory is frequently used in a manner that means little more than the background literature in an area of social inquiry' (Bryman, 2008, p. 8)
    • Purpose :
    • To resolve an inconsistency between different findings/ interpretations of findings
    • To address a neglected area of a topic
    • To provide an alternative approach to that in literature
    Literature acting as proxy for theory Can be critiqued as 'naive empiricism' (Bryman, 2008) '"theory" may be little more than the literature on a certain topic in the form of accumulated knowledge gleaned from books and articles' (Bryman, 2008, p. 8)
  • 12. How do you characterise the use of theory in your PhD study?
  • 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. Deductive theory
    • implications of findings for the theory
    Deduce a hypothesis Empirical study Concepts researchable entities questions Theory Operational terms specifying how data can be collected in relation to the concepts that make up the hypothesis Middle-range theory ‘to guide empirical inquiry’ (Merton, 1967, p. 39) based on what is known in the domain and theoretical consideration translated into Findings fed back into the stock of theory and knowledge in the domain [revision of] Theory (adapted from Bryman, 2008)
  • 15.
    • 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).
    Inductive theory (Bryman, 2008)
  • 16. And what about you? Inductive? Deductive? Mix and match?
  • 17. Grounded theory Glaser and Strauss (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research
  • 18. Grounded theory An strategy of qualitative data analysis An approach to data collection 'not a theory - ... an approach to the generation of theory out of data' (Bryman 2008, p. 541) An iterative process of data collection and analysis
  • 19.
    • For the analysis of data and to the generation of theory
    • Useful for generating theory out of data
  • 20. ...grounded theory is honoured more in breach than in the 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. 'Before applying this label to a research project, however, you should be aware that grounded theory entails a specific set of procedures and strategies for the achievement of such empirically embedded forms of understanding' (Hodkinson 2008)
  • 22. 'The tendency for dissertation and research students to claim the use of grounded theory in their methodology chapters, 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. 'When describing your methodology, provide detail and reflection on the approach you took to the collection and analysis of data - don't use a label like grounded theory without elaborating ' (Hodkinson 2008, p. 83).
  • 24. Any grounded theory users?
  • 25. Overall design and orientation Theory as Perspective Theory as Substantive theory
  • 26. Perspective
    • A particular perspective, philosophical position, paradigm or meta-theory which lies behind and informs research
    (Punch, 2006)
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Theory (substantive theory)
    • theory about a substantive issue or phenomenon
    • both describes and explains the phenomenon of substantive interest
    (Punch, 2006)
  • 34. Theory (substantive theory)
      • 'a common criterion among universities for the award of the doctorate centres on the "substantial and original contribution to knowledge" the study makes, and the "substantial" part of the criterion is often interpreted in terms of substantive theory'.
    (Punch, 2006, p. 33) Important for us because ...
  • 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. 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. The relationship of the study to the literature
    • Fills a gap in the literatureSits in line with the main trends in the literatureSeeks to extend these trendsTakes a different direction from those in the literatureConfirms, challenges or disconfirms other findings (a replication study)Tests / extends a theory from the literatureUses a theoretical framework or model from the literature
    (Punch, 2006)
  • 38. (Bryman, 2008) Quantitative Qualitative Role of theory deductive, testing theory inductive, generation of theory Epistemological orientation practices and norms of the natural science model (positivism) preference for an emphasis on how people interpret their world (interpretivism) Ontological orientation social reality as an external, objective reality (objectivism) social reality as constantly shifting emergent property of individuals creation (constructionism) quantification in the collection and analysis of data words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data
  • 39. How are you doing with theory so far?
  • 40. Research questions? Research strategy?
  • 41. (Bryman, 2008) Theory and research deductive (theory guides research) inductive (theory as an outcomes of research) Epistemological considerations positivism (a natural science epistemology)interpretivism Ontological considerations objectivismconstructivism Research strategy quantitative and qualitative Influences on the conduct values practical considerations
  • 42. Thank u! pe [email_address]