Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Writing a thesis? You need to know about the levels of theory . . .

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research, Educational technology, PhD Studies, Research

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I was just working with a student today, and it seemed appropriate to discuss the levels of theory. (Ghads! I posted this yesterday, and noted some serious revisions were needed!)

There are different levels of theory:

  1. Philosophical perspective (i.e., ontology, epistemology, teleology, etc.).
  2. Theoretical perspective (anti-positivist vs. positivist).
  3. Background theory (of your field such as distance education).
  4. Focal theory (for example, maybe you are using the community of inquiry to guide your study).
  5. Data theory (the methods you choose, how you collect your data, and how you analyze your data).

They are all connected.

You will need to understand where you are in terms of your philosophical approach to the world:

For example, if I identify myself to be within the subjectivist camp: 

I will likely position myself with the anti-positivist theoretical perspective. I might choose:

Say, I select “interpretivism,” I am likely to draw upon some of the following [note that these will help you form your research questions (RQs)]:

The background theory of, for example, distance education would involve

I will choose focal theories that agree with anti-positivist philosophy.

Data theory: the methodology and methods you choose in order to answer your research question need to be “commensurate” (i.e., in agreement) with the above theories/philosophies. So, as an interpretivist studying distance education and using the community of inquiry as my focal theory, I would consider:

Make sense?