Bringing ideas to life

Bridging the gap between theory and method

Published in Method, Research Students by Mark Murphy on December 19, 2013

(c) Arthur John Picton

(c) Arthur John Picton


In her introduction to a re-published version of Mark Lipsey’s ‘theory as method: small theories of treatments’  (which originally came out in 1993), Laura Leviton does a decent job of summarising the challenges faced when moving between theory and method, especially for those embedded in fields of professional practice:

The idea of theory intimidates or alienates many practitioners – especially the ‘big’ metatheories or psychology, sociology, and other social science disciplines. All too often these are too abstract and inaccessible for practitioners to employ without some means of bridging to the specific case, the here and now. Also, researchers too often deal with big theory without a clear pathway to its explication, use and adaptation in specific real-world settings (Leviton, 2007: 28).

Leviton is talking about theory in relation to the field of evaluation research, but really she could have been referring to any number of fields. The emphasis on the technical aspects of the theory-method relationship is especially important, the mechanisms by which we ‘bridge’ and develop ‘pathways’ between theories and specific methods crucial components to the success or otherwise of any research project.

They are also crucial components of socialtheoryapplied.com and have been touched upon in a range of posts published on the site since its launch in January of this year. It is envisaged that the bridging mechanisms – i.e., the art of application – will become an ever more prominent feature of the site in 2014 as I draw on the research methods literature in much more detail. I also encourage readers of the site to submit their own thoughts on this subject: feel free to get in touch with any ideas you might have in this regard – my email is mark.murphy.2@glasgow.ac.uk, Mark

About


Mark MurphyMark Murphy is a Reader in Education and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow. He previously worked as an academic at King’s College, London, University of Chester, University of Stirling, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, University College Dublin and Northern Illinois University. Mark is an active researcher in the fields of education and public policy. His research interests include educational sociology, critical theory, accountability in higher education, and public sector reform.

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