Monday, April 8, 2013

Utilizing Theory in Research

For the purposes of this discussion, I have analyzed McGrath & Pistrang (2007), which is a qualitative study. This was not a difficult choice to make since the authors noted this fact in the first sentence of the study. Several factors alerted me to this assertion including the lack of statistical analysis or a report with means, standard deviations, and statistically relevant findings (Creswell, 2009b). It contained a narrative report with descriptions and other information from participants, whereas a quantitative report would be a statistical comparison that contained numbers (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009; Lichtman, 2006). It was the study of a whole rather than specific variables that are studied in quantitative design. The data collected included subjective experiences of participants rather than numbers and statistics, and it identified patterns and features rather than statistical relationships (Lichtman, 2006). It was exploratory whereas a quantitative study would have explained and made predictions. The ultimate purpose of the study was to understand human nature and inducing a new theory, whereas a quantitative study would have tested a hypothesis (Creswell, 2008a, 2009b; Lichtman, 2006).

The purpose of the study was to fill the paucity of research on homeless young people. Based on previous research, young homeless individuals encounter a variety of psychological challenges typical for this age group (McGrath & Pistrang, 2007). Preventing and intervening into these issues has not been well understood.

Applying the Use of Theory Checklist, the authors do not identify one overarching theory by name, however, they discussed the literature and a few partially useable theoretical models. The authors discussed psychotherapy research that suggests certain factors contribute to psychotherapy's effectiveness and the therapeutic alliance, and this study determined three such themes central to the relationships studied.

In their data analysis, they implemented Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to develop themes in their research, (identifying themes and patterns are typical in qualitative research (Creswell, 2009)) although they implemented IPA anticipating developing multiple themes rather than one overarching theme (McGrath & Pistrang, 2007). As a result of the study, and typical of the process of induction that takes place in qualitative research, the authors identified three patterns in the relationships of the participants, which they described as core aspects or features (patterns) of the participants' relationships (McGrath & Pistrang, 2007).

This article did not examine independent and independent variables as would be the case in a quantitative study (Creswell, 2009a). A qualitative study is a study of a whole exploration rather than variables (Lichtman, 2006). Because this qualitative article did not examine variables, it did not address associations of variables, or provide a rationale for why the variables are related based on theory. It did, however, associate previous research that describes the qualities of a therapeutic alliance to the three core aspects of the relationships between participants.


Creswell, J. (2009a). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Creswell, J. W. (2009b). Chapter three: The use of theory [PPT]. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Theory. Baltimore: Author.

Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McGrath, L., & Pistrang, N. (2007). Policeman or friend? Dilemmas in working with homeless young people in the United Kingdom. Journal of Social Issues, 63(3), 589-606. doi 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00525.x

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