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Higher Education Research: an atheoretical community of practice?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1/11/2004
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Number of pages17
Original languageEnglish


A database of 406 articles published in 2000 in 17 specialist higher education journals, based outside North America, is analysed in terms of whether a theoretical perspective is adopted. In the majority of cases, any theoretical perspective is only implicit, and broader engagement with theory is absent. Where theory is explicit, the authors appear more likely to be based in a social science department or academic development unit, rather than an education department or higher education research centre. The implications of this analysis for the development of higher education research as an interdisciplinary field of study are explored.

Bibliographic note

A third publication stemming from my meta-analysis of contemporary higher education research, initially reported in Researching Higher Education. This paper extends the analysis to consider the presence or absence of theoretical perspectives in the 406 articles studied, and the kinds of theory being applied. The articles are then evaluated in terms of their methodological and theoretical frameworks. It concludes that there are distinct, and related, patterns of methodological and theoretical engagement, such that theory and method will be more or less explicit and present depending upon the particular genre of higher education research being pursued. The desirability and prospects of greater theoretical engagement are then considered. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Education