Theory and Theorists
Theory and the philosophy of science in research frames and informs the nature of:
• What is being studied – its ontology; and
• How we develop our understanding of the world (our reality) – the epistemology and methodology of scientific investigation and inquiry.
Inductive theory is used to connect components of a study and in doing so explain or identify a phenomenon. While, deductive theory and its research approaches is used to ‘test’ a hypotheses or research question related to that the theory. The selection of theory and research approach is influenced by a number of factors not limited to and which include: the researchers world view, motivation, the cost and time needed to conduct research.
In response to the question ‘include your views on whether theory serves to connect components of the study and if theory is a basis for selecting a research approach’ my view is that theory taken in its broadest sense does connect components of a study. It can also be the basis for selecting a research approach. For example, deductive theory uses quantitative research to connect variables and identify the relationship between variables. Similarly inductive theory is used in qualitative research to investigate patterns of behaviour which may as a consequence of the research be used to connect the patterns of behaviour to form a theory.
For example, if I wanted to identity the patterns of behaviour and how knowledge is transferred or learnt in an organisation or profession. I could use inductive theory and qualitative research methods to identify the behaviours and how knowledge is transferred to construct a theory of organisational learning. I and other researchers could then use deductive theory and quantitative research approaches to ‘test’ or confirm over time and in different settings my theory of organisational learning. This will in turn facilitate the analysis and reporting of results that are credible because the research can be verified (empirically generalised) or contested by subsequent research.
Applied to my area of interest, public sector governance, in particular reform of Australian local government. This reform agenda is being shaped by contemporary theories of ‘governance’ and more recently by notions of market,...