Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Paula Carina de Araújo, Joseph T. Tennis

Last modified: 2018-02-20


Metatheory is the study and analysis of theory. Metatheory “presents all the situations or states of affairs that can be expressed within the logical possibilities of the conceptual apparatus of a theory”, (Vickery 1998, 453).

The meta-analytic approach called metatheory was first considered in sociology. Ritzer (1991) presents three types of metatheoretical work: metatheorizing in order to better understand the theory (Mu), as a prelude to the production of a new theory (Mp) and to produce a perspective that overarches some part or all the theory (Mo). The fourth type of metatheory was presented by Colomy (1991), the idea of metatheorizing to evaluate a theory (Ma).

Metatheory is an important method and we agree with Hjørland that it should to be applied to knowledge organization (KO) “to raise its theoretical and philosophical level, the better to understand the limitations and possibilities of different approaches”, (1998, 620).

Araújo, Tennis and Guimarães (2017) present an analysis of five papers (Tennis (2008); Dousa (2010); Samuelsson (2010); Castanha e Grácio (2014) and, Tennis (2015)) that are metatheoretical research in KO. They conclude that metatheorizing to better understand the theory is the most popular type of metatheory applied in five papers that are metatheoretical investigations in KO.

We identify and analyze the influence of metatheoretical investigations published in the journal Knowledge Organization. This way, we seek to shape the theoretical discourse of KO and to understand the possibilities of different approaches.

We collected the citations to the papers that are metatheoretical investigations in KO from Web of Science, Scopus and Google Scholar to compare. Tennis (2008) is the most cited paper in the three databases. We analyze in this paper the citations collected from Web of Science.

Castanha and Grácio (2014) have one citation in Web of Science. Hilario et al. (2016) apply a metatheoretical investigation to the theme scientific collaboration. As we have a self-citation in this case, we excluded it from our analysis.

Web of Science indicates two citations to Dousa (2010), one from Szostak (2011) and another from García Gutiérrez (2014). Therefore, García Gutiérrez (2014) only indicates Dousa’s paper in the reference list. On the other side, Szostak (2011) indicates Dousa’s (2010) research for a deep understanding of the implications of different types of pragmatism. The citation follows his discussion on Hjørland’s considerations about concepts and the epistemologies that influence it.

Tennis (2008) receives eleven citations in Web of Science and we find different approaches in citations to his study. Dousa (2010), Dahlberg (2011) and, Hjørland (2014) present a theoretical approach related to the foundation of KO while they cite Tennis’s (2008) study.

Furner (2009), Lian et al. (2016, 441), Engerer (2017) and, Lee (2017) approach concepts, like KO, document, and epistemology, presented by Tennis (2008) in his research. Ohly (2015) cites Tennis’ (2008) statement that we need to acknowledge how our work interfaces with many other research initiatives, new techniques and systems of organization in other domains as he presents what is reserved for ISKO in the future.

Roblek et al. (2013) consider that epistemology is claimed on what knowledge is valid in research, how that knowledge is presented and what kind of knowledge is found in knowledge-based organizations. And, they cite that argument as a Tennis’ (2008) thought. Therefore, Tennis (2008) refer to epistemology related to KO but not to the knowledge-based organization. What leads us to consider there was a misunderstanding regarded to that citation.

Ojennus and Tennis (2013) cite Tennis (2008) when they explain the aesthetic perspective on the craft of information organization work. But, as we consider it a self-citation, the paper is not analyzed. And, Tognoli (2015) cites Tennis (2008) as one of the authors that study metatheory in KO.

Tennis’ (2015) work was cited in two papers. A more conceptual citation is made to Tennis’ (2015) work by Simões et al.  (2016). They cite Tennis’ (2015) explanation on classification and classification schemes and the difference between narrowly or broadly classification as they explore classification theory and classification in libraries and archives.

Tennis (2016) describes the philosophical and operational challenges to methodology in subject ontogeny research. He starts his paper citing his 2015 research. As it is a self-citation, we will not analyze the paper.

Samuelsson’s (2010) research is cited four times in Web of Science. Drucker (2017), Eckerdal (2012) and, Martínez-Ávila et al. (2016) cite Samuelsson’s (2010) research as an example of research on feminism in KO and also as feminist epistemology. McTavish et al. (2011) confirm Samuelsson’s (2010) statement that the incomplete representation of gendered terminology is common.

Nine papers that cited metatheoretical research were published in the journal Knowledge Organization. Which demonstrates the strong influence of the journal in the domain. Google Scholar presents the highest citation to the papers analyzed. We intend to analyze both Google Scholar and Scopus citation too. Tennis’ work on metatheory is the most influential on KO studies.

Most citations are related to the definition and discussion of key concepts in the KO domain. Some of them develop an argument and critique about the epistemological influence in KO research ((Dousa 2010; Hjorland 2014; Szostak 2011)).

Castanha, Grácio (2014) and Tennis (2014) studies were cited in other two metatheoretical studies, (Hilário, Tognoli, and Grácio 2016; Tognoli 2015). We can state that the metatheoretical research we analyzed in this work influences the theoretical argument and discussion in KO.