Using theory in health professions education research: a guide for early career researchers

Koshila Kumar, Chris Roberts, Gabrielle M. Finn, Yu-Che Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

4 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Theory provides complex and comprehensive explanations of a wide range of phenomena (i.e., things that we research), and using theory can enhance quality in health professions education (HPE) research [1,2,3,4]. However, those who are new to HPE research and early career researchers (ECRs) can find it challenging to use theory. In this paper, we outline key considerations (see Table 1) for using theory in HPE research, both in relation to theory as a subject or content area and the process of using it, including critically questioning which theories are priviledged in the HPE literature [5, 6]. By providing this guidance, we hope to support new and early-career HPE researchers around the globe to enhance their capacity to appraise and improve theoretical quality, both in relation to their own work and the HPE literature. While theory is the focus of this paper, we acknowledge it is one of many aspects that researchers have to concurrently balance and integrate into their work [7].
Original languageEnglish
Article number601
Number of pages6
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2022


  • Early career researchers
  • Education research
  • Health Professional Education (HPE)


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