Three abuses of ‘theory’: an engagement with Roy Nash

Stephen Gorard


This paper summarises three abuses of ‘theory’ described in my previous paper in this journal. These are the theory of incommensurate qualitative and quantitative paradigms, the needless deification of past theorists, and the insistence by peer-reviewers on an explicit theoretical framework for all empirical work. These three abuses are widespread in UK education research. They form part of the difficulty in enhancing the capacity of professional researchers to treat a variety of research methods with respect, and to consider the use of mixed methods in their own work. The paper follows the response by Nash to my previous paper. It recognises our areas of agreement, suggests that some areas of disagreement are based on misunderstanding, and considers the impact on Nash’s response of his well-known enthusiasm for using the theoretical concepts of Bourdieu.

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