The relations of theory and methodology in qualitative educational research – extending knowable parameters

Year: 2021

Author: Dolan, Christopher, Garrett, Robyne

Type of paper: Workshop

This interactive workshop explores the relations of theory and methodology in qualitative educational research. Working initially from the premise that ‘Methodology grows out of theory and conceptualisation, and does not precede it or proceed without it’ (Walker & Thomson 2010, p. 28), the paper draws on various examples of empirical work to explore and discuss the illuminating possibilities that theory presents. The challenge the researcher faces in conceptualising their project is depicted as a struggle at the intersection of choices made from a vast canon of relevant theory and the need to take reflexive account of variables such as personal and cultural history, ideas from the extant literature, research interests, political persuasion and epistemological positioning.While this struggle towards a conceptual framework is initially connected to the setting of good research questions and the choice of compatible methods for data collection, the emphasis of the paper shifts, in its second part, to more expansive possibilities in bringing theory to processes of data analysis and interpretation. In keeping with the conference theme of ‘reimagining education research’, the argument is made that theory, when worked and contextualized to respond to the needs and orientation of the researcher, presents new possibilities for the construction and representation of data that extends the ‘knowable’ parameters of the research into more imaginative and speculative realms. Continuing to draw from examples of research design, various analytical and interpretive tools are described and then interrogated in group discussion.