What does it mean to ‘theorise’ research?

DoctoralWriting SIG

By Cally Guerin

Researchers, and especially those working on doctorates, are advised that their work needs to be much more than a description; they must also ‘theorise’ their work. Many of us are a little unsure about what this really means, especially when instructed to ‘theorise your practice’, so here is my attempt to try and define it.

Doctoral writers generally need to tie their research to existing, well-established theories, for example, feminist theory, attachment theory, social constructivist theory. Such theories act as a lens through which the research is perceived, and often determine the direction and focus of the research.

But on another level, doctoral writers are also required to ‘theorise’ their findings. This second kind of ‘theorising’ demands that the writer step away from the mass of details to enable a big-picture view of data in order to understand its broader meanings.

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