Earlier this month, I received the go ahead to start writing my literature review. Hooray! It’s been fun taking all the research about cyberbullying I’ve been accumulating in my head and putting it on paper where it can do some work. I have my outline for the review all neatly organized, but I’m still lacking something. That something is my theory. Very little theory has been used in the cyberbullying literature. This will be my first “real” (non-assignment related) attempt at applying theory to my own research. It’s both mildly terrifying and thrilling.
I’ve run into a roadblock with my first stab at theorizing cyberbullying. I worked with Elfreda Chatman’s theory of information poverty, trying to see how it could be used in cyberbullying. After a meeting with a faculty member who knows far more about information poverty and Chatman than I could ever hope, it seems the theory doesn’t fit as well as I hoped it would. Now I’m scouring my trusty copy of Theories of Information Behavior and other literature to find a theory that could be useful to cyberbullying research. Although I had a doctoral seminar in theory last spring, theory continues to intimidates me (to a lesser degree than before but still). Whenever I hear people discussing theory, I have this vague feeling that I’m too slow to keep up. Smiling and nodding sometimes suffices as a response. Maybe more people are intimidated by theory. They’re just better at putting on a cool front than I am. I’m confident that I’ll get through this and find the right theory (or right-ish?). Being a beginning researcher, I’m a mixture of conflicting feelings – inadequacy, fear, confusion, and excitement. Or maybe you always experience these feeling as a researcher? Maybe the intensity just changes.
Anyone have words of wisdom for a novice theorist? What experiences have you had at applying theory to research? Triumphs or horror stories to share? How useful do you see theory in research?