Bringing theory to doctoral research


Gulson, K. N., & Parkes, R. J. (2010). Bringing theory to doctoral research. In P. Thomson & M. Walker (Eds.), The Routledge doctoral student’s companion: Getting to grips with research in education and the social sciences (pp. 76-84). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

This chapter takes the proposed title as an invitation to explore the role of theory in educational research, and presents a particular understanding of ways to bring theory into doctoral research. The authors are convinced of the need for, and subsequent enactment of, theoretically informed doctoral undertakings; that is the ways in which doctoral students can, and should, be cognisant of the pleasures and perils of using theory in educational doctoral work, and that theory is in fact a necessity in order to become a scholar. Thus, in this short chapter we consider what theory is in educational research, in albeit a limited way, and then reflect on our own doctoral experiences to look at how theory provides a means of finding one’s own voice in the field. Gulson explores the work of spatial theory that he brought to his doctoral study in critical policy studies; while Parkes examines the use of post-colonial and poststructural theory in his doctoral exploration of History curriculum after postmodernism. The authors conclude by suggesting that theory operates as a form of permission that constitutes the scholar, and that theory is necessary for crafting a scholarly trajectory of one’s own.

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