Theory and Literature

I’m reading Karen Golden-Biddle and Karen Locke’s Composing Qualitative Research (SAGE, 2007) these days. The second chapter is called “Crafting a Theorized Storyline” and in it they work through four “rhetorical moves” that resonate nicely with my 3-step proposal for writing an introduction. As far as I can tell, my second step essentially combines their second and third moves. This is because Golden-Biddle and Locke distinguish between the literature review and the theory section while I, following Ezra Zuckerman, prefer just to write a theory section grounded in a reading of the literature.

If you have access to the CBS Library, you can read the chapter here. On page 27, they outline the moves as follows:

  1. Articulate study significance
  2. Situate study in literature
  3. Problematize literature to make space for study to contribute
  4. Foreshadow how the present study addresses problematization

Interestingly, they allow you to make these moves within the same paragraph and even within the same sentence. My approach is less open-minded, I guess, prescribing three distinct paragraphs:

  1. Write a paragraph that describes the part of the world that interests you.
  2. Write a paragraph that describes the state of the science that studies it.
  3. Write a paragraph that describes your paper.

Done right, these paragraphs will accomplish the same thing that Golden-Biddle and Locke suggest. You’re free to discover for yourself which works best. Next week, in any case, I’ll work through each move/step. I certainly agree with Golden-Biddle and Locke that theorizing the stories you tell in qualitative research is an important part of the writing process.

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