A good research question is exemplified through its explicit grounding in theory and “should embody recognizable aspects of the theoretical framework and articulate the theoretical framework in a manner by which is can be further explored by your dissertation research” (Osanloo, A., Grant, C., 2016). This rooting in a theory allows the researcher to build from the ecosystem of scholarly work, interrogating and testing the question posed within the theories and contributing to the ecosystem of scholastic research.

This makes sense to me as I consider ways that questions arise for me and how I resolve questions. Typically a question arises when I cannot readily make sense of an experience or stemming from curiosity about what impact a certain action would have on a situation. Finding theories that can support understanding of a phenomena better would be the starting place in finding answers.

For example I am curious about place-based learning, how it is valued in different places and contexts, how it relates to decolonization and indigenization and if students can engage with it beyond physical sharing of space. I looked at three papers that researched place based learning to see how they showed their questions and how theory was situated in their research. All three papers explicitly stated what theories they grounded their research in which helped to frame their questions within parameters the learning community had previously established or as Grant and Osanloo tell us by providing “a common world view or lens from which to support one’s thinking on the problem and analysis of the data” (2016).

In Corissa L. Pasiechynks’ paper Place-Based Education: Improving Learning While Connecting Students to Community and Environment there is an explicit statement about where place-based education sits in the eco-system of experiential learning and how John Deweys’ early work in pragmatic theory is what grounds her research question, summarized by what are the strengths of place based learning for rural communities and what barriers exist to faculty adopting place based teaching practices?

Laureen Parks’ paper Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Virtual Place-Based Learning looks at how virtual reality technologies and place based education practices intersect stating, “The theoretical framework I utilize in discussing these topics is informed primarily by phenomenology…..I will be mapping phenom- enological concepts to parallel ideas in constructivism” (2019). Park then provides the reader background on both the phenomenological approach and constructivism that help her to answer the question is virtual reality a substitute for in person place based learning?

Kexabu, McMahon, Kember and Hill’s study Intersections of Indigenous Knowledge and Place Based Education: Possibilities for New Visions of Sustainability Education in Uganda clearly states their research questions, “How can Indigenous Knowledge, practices and values intersect with place-based education in Ugandan secondary schools? How can teachers use place-based education pedagogies to influence their learners to reconnect to their community/culture and places in Ugandan secondary schools? How can community elders contribute to place-based education in their communities in Uganda?” (2018).

The study then explicitly lays out how theories were drawn on including critical paradigm, critical place theory and Participatory Action Research (PAR) justifying theory adoption by explaining how PAR is best suited to the cultural context the study was performed in.

For my learning it is interesting to actually see how this is true in academic papers. Despite reading academic papers fairly often I can now see how the questions are grounded in theories and this is explicit. While I was reading I did not really see this before, whereas now I think I am going to make sure questions are rooted in a theory before I fully accept a paper as a valid source of information.


Grant, C. & Osanloo, A. (2016) UNDERSTANDING, SELECTING, AND INTEGRATING A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK IN DISSERTATION RESEARCH: CREATING THE BLUEPRINT FOR YOUR “HOUSE”. Administrative Issues Journal: Connecting Education, Practice and Research Winter 2014
DOI: 10.5929/2014.4.2.9

Kezabu K., McMahon J., Kember D., Hill A. (2018) Intersections of Indigenous Knowledge and Place Based Education: Possibilities for New Visions of Sustainability Education in Uganda. In: Kember D., Corbett M. (eds) Structuring the Thesis. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-0511-5_14

Park L. (2019) Virtual Reality as a Pedagogical Tool for Interdisciplinarity and Place-Based Education. In: Lansiquot R., MacDonald S. (eds) Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Virtual Place-Based Learning. Palgrave Pivot, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32471-1_3

Pasiechnyk, C.L. (2018).  Place-Based Education: Improving Learning While Connecting Students to Community and Environment. University of Victoria Department of Curriculum and Instruction. https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/9239/Pasiechnyk_Corissa_MEd_2018.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y