I have reviewed the theoretical trajectory of my research topic and I see gaps that I would like to fill with my own proposed theory. Is it too early in my career to put forward a theory? I am just a PhD student. If I can put forth a theory at this stage, what is the best way to go about it? Will the fact that I am a junior faculty member and a student affect the reception of my theory in the international scholarship community?

  • As long as you get your advisor's stamp of approval you're probably good. – Ben Bitdiddle Jan 28 '15 at 0:47
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    Well, I'd even say that it's mandatory to come up with something new during PhD research, if you would be just researching what others have said and done, then it by definition isn't novel and not sufficient for a PhD thesis. – Peteris Jan 28 '15 at 1:40
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    Theories are a dime a dozen. Are you willing to first bet a lot of work on establishing that it hasn't already been ruled out, and then bet years of work on trying to prove that it works better than any of the alternatives? That's what science is all about, y'know – keshlam Jan 28 '15 at 2:31
  • What are you referring to with "a theory"; a new hypothesis, a theoretical model, an entire theoretical framework, a redefinition of the entire field? A "theory" can be many different things, and it makes a difference when trying to answer the question. – fileunderwater Jan 28 '15 at 8:49
  • Vote to close as 'Unclear what you're asking". Please explain to us what you mean by "Theory". – scaaahu Jan 28 '15 at 9:08

A theory (assuming you mean hypothesis or idea, not proven theorem) is the start of the process. You might come up with one at any time! Of course it will probably be wrong: this is nothing against you, its just that most interesting theories turn out to be wrong.

The interesting challenge, and most of the work, comes next, when you try to show that the theory is true or false, either empirically or analytically...

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of course. that is the nature of a PhD. Of course, if it is anything contentious then you need to have arguments and evidence. And of course "extraordinary theories require extraordinary evidence". That said, coming up a hypothesis or two is evidence of critical thought. Be prepared to defend it. And do so with courtesy and good will.

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    It's not clear what your statement "Of course not" is in reference to. Is that your answer to the titular question ("Can I come up with a new theory in the course of my PhD research?") or to a question in the body of the post? – ff524 Jan 28 '15 at 2:15
  • it was a slip of the mind. now edited. – Garry Jolley-Rogers Jan 30 '15 at 2:16

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