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Disciplinary Enculturation - Theory and Praxis

An adjunct to the book chapter, William Badke, "Framing Information Literacy within the Disciplines of Theological Education, " providing further practical options.



Disciplinary analysis requires you to ask questions that guide the process.  Below some essential questions and subordinate guiding questions.


1. What is the most essential knowledge in the discipline?

Guiding Questions:

a. What types of materials form the foundation of the knowledge base? [For example, primary sources, experimental data, theoretical treatises].

b. What are the priorities of the knowledge base? [For example, analysis of primary sources; great scholars or thinkers promoting their views; theory development based on experimentation].

c. Who are the leading scholars who have formed the knowledge base?

2. How did the knowledge base develop over time?​

Guiding Questions:

1. What were the sources used to begin development of the knowledge base? [For example, primary materials, early theories, phenomena and circumstances that formed problems demanding resolution].

2. What were the motivations behind development of the knowledge base? [Here we see both metanarrative and method guiding this development.  Motives could involve deeper understanding, problem solving, or improvement in some aspect of life.  Or they could involve simple curiosity].

3. What are the main events and movements that guided the development of the knowledge base? [Here include major scholars and movements, but also controversies, bypaths, and significant achievements].



1. What motivates scholars in this discipline?

Guiding Questions:

a. What do scholars in this discipline say about their motivation? [The best way to answer this is to ask scholars directly; it is also possible to find autobiographical material or to look at motives revealed in published introductions to the discipline].

b. How does the literature of the discipline reveal disciplinary motivation and thus disciplinary culture? [Look for major initiatives in the literature].

c. How does the scholarly conversation (discourse among scholars in print or in person) reveal what is important to them and what is not?  Here you need to consider as well the nature of the conversation (peaceable, argumentative, concerned with sharing ideas, or concerned with rigorously examining research findings and truth claims).

2. How diverse is the discipline's metanarrative?

Guiding Questions

a. How would you describe the internal culture of practitioners of this discipline? Think here in terms of values, priorities, essential goals, and the ethical stances that set limits for the way they conduct themselves.

b. Now consider the work of outliers (those who make small or radical departures from the cultural norms of the discipline), suggesting new ideas or even new methods.  How are they viewed by the discipline as a whole?  How is their work tested?  How do their approaches to the discipline gain acceptance, if at all?

c. Considering a. and b. above, is this a closely knit metanarrative with only minor divergences, a metanarrative with several subcultures, or a loose collection of multiple metanarratives bound around central beliefs or practices? Remember that all disciplines have some sort of metanarrative arrangement that defines them, or they cannot really call themselves disciplines.


1. What are the standard methods used in this discipline?

Guiding Questions:

a. Does the discipline use a clearly defined method or methods, and, if so, what? For example, history focuses on analysis of primary sources, science on the scientific method, and so on, whereas something like leadership studies may have a more eclectic method.

b. To what extent does the discipline have established rules for carrying out its method? Scientific method and publication have set rules and patterns, whereas historical studies, English literature, theological studies, and so on, have less clearly defined rules.

c. How does the discipline determine when improper methods are being used or existing methods are being used improperly?

d. How does the discipline respond to methodological divergences?

2. How do new or alternative methods gain acceptance in the discipline?

Guiding Questions:

a. If methods develop over time, how does the discipline evaluate the worth of new methods that seem promising? Ask, as well, whether the discipline embraces new methods easily.

b. What are some examples of new methods that were added to the discipline's methodology or even replaced older methods?

c. Are new methods encouraging the cohesion of the metanarrative of the discipline or fragmenting it?  If the latter, how is the discipline seeking to address that fragmentation?