Applying Theory to Educational Research: An Introductory Approach with Case Studies

Jeff Adams, Matthew Cochrane, Linda Dunne

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This is a book about social theory and its application to research in the field of education. Many books on theory are written by academics who are familiar with their selected theories from the outset, and confident in their application, a confidence that has been developed through familiarity and practice. This book, on the other hand, offers a picture of experience from another, much more common perspective: that of the researcher new to a theory, and unused to its application. This is the key purpose and rationale of this book: to guide the reader by example and case studies, which are often grounded in the fresh discovery of others’ theories. We think that this standpoint is important because it is often at that moment of understanding, the epiphany of realisation, that the excitement of academic work is generated. This exhilaration is often what motivates and inspires researchers, keeping them returning to texts and notebooks to discover more. There’s nothing quite like the first successful engagement with ‘difficult’ theory to make one feel scholarly, and to make substantial our hitherto tentative thinking. This book offers an in-depth analysis of the processes and procedures of assimilating and applying theories to educational research design, methods and data using actual case studies as examples, written by the authors of those studies. The book does not attempt to provide biographies of important theoreticians, nor replicate a canon of significant theories, nor does it offer a comprehensive summary of contemporary theories relevant to education. On the contrary, it captures the voices of researchers from the field and their experiences of applying theory, sometimes in an ad hoc or tentative manner. These accounts are more akin, we believe, to the reality in education research for the beginner or novice researcher who is attempting to navigate the vast and complex field of social theory application. Many frequently used theorists can be found in these pages. For example: Bourdieu, Butler, Foucault and Stenhouse and many others appear, and aspects of their work are discussed in some detail, as the theories arose in the design of the contributors’ research questions and projects or simple as they encountered them. This method of witnessing ‘theory in action’ does, we believe, offer an insight that is relevant to those new to research or coming across these theories for the first time.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationChichester
Number of pages225
ISBN (Print)9780470972366
Publication statusPublished - 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Applying Theory to Educational Research: An Introductory Approach with Case Studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this