eight ways to write theory very badly | pat thomson

If you want to be the person who makes their reader sigh and eventually give up when they get to your theoretical ‘bit’, here’s some non-fail writing strategies. Do these and I guarantee your reader will be enervated and/or exasperated:
Don’t explain any of the specific terms you use

Let your reader guess how it is that you understand any of the theoretical terminology you use. Assume that their interpretation will be the same as yours.
2.  Name drop

Make sure you reference truck loads of different theorists. Embroider your text with citations to the widest possible range of people….

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becoming friends with theory | pat thomson

I’m currently reading some theory that I’ve not read before. It’s in a field associated with mine, but the two areas are rarely brought together. I’m reading because I am wondering whether there is something in this new theoretical resource that might be helpful to my work. And this is how writing with theory usually starts. With reading.

Some theory reading is done early in the PhD. In some disciplines and for some types of research, a theoretical framework is developed as part of the proposal. And some doctoral studies are all about theoretical development and so all of the reading done…

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what’s a framework? – as in, conceptual or theoretical framework | pat thomson

Whenever people talk about concepts or theory, they usually add on another word – framework. And ‘framework’ can be as confusing as the concept or theory word that goes before it. (Check this recent post for the difference between concept and theory.)

So what does this ‘framework’ actually mean?

It’s actually easiest to think about a frame, as we all know what one is. And then the work that the frame does.

So… Think of a house. A house usually has a frame, often built of wood or steel. This frame is a skeleton around which the rest of the house is built. The frame provides a basic…

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theory fright – part two | pat thomson

Theory is explanation. Last post I suggested that this understanding might help to reduce fear of theory. This week, another piece in the fright reduction puzzle.

Something else that might help reduce fear of theory is the understanding that not every piece of research uses theory. But all research, regardless of its aims and objectives and its discipline, works with key concepts. And key concepts have to hang together coherently. As a framework. A conceptual framework.

Let me give you an example.

Imagine you want to research, say, how to publish a journal article – oh, hang on that’s…

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theory fright – part one | pat thomson

Lots of doctoral researchers worry about the Th word, Theory. When said aloud, you can often hear the capital T. It must be important. Theory.

And perhaps because of the capital T, the question “What’s your theoretical framework?” can move doctoral researchers to a state of near panic.

Now, theory is a term which often gets mixed up with another scary word – concept. Sometimes people use them interchangeably. Or they bracket the two together in a way that suggests there is a difference – as in “What’s your conceptual or theoretical framework?” – but then don’t explain what the difference…

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getting to grips with ‘the paragraph’ | pat thomson

I was recently asked how I felt about paragraphs. “Well you know, all the feels” I might have replied. But I didn’t, largely because I don’t usually think about the paragraph. The question made me wonder whether I take the paragraph for granted.

Paragraphs sit way below my consciousness a lot of the time. But paragraph awareness rises to the surface when I am reading something where the writer doesn’t appear know what the paragraph is. I pay attention to paragraphs when I expect to see them and they aren’t there. I notice their absence rather than their presence.

A caveat. I don’t expect…

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revising with a reader in mind – ten questions | pat thomson

Academics write for different kinds of readers. We are often accused of writing only for each other, but this is no longer true. Many of us now write for many different kinds of readers – or audiences, as they are sometimes called.

But you know, even when we do write for each other, we are not all the same. Different academic readers have different expectations, experiences, interests and disciplinary traditions. And while all academic readers will be looking to see that your writing is well evidenced and argued, they may also approach your writing differently. An examiner, a reviewer of a…

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