Making practice publishable: what practice academics need to do to get their work published, and what that tells us about the theory-practice gap

Helen Wolfenden*, Howard Sercombe, Paul Tucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


For centuries, universities have supported the pursuit of knowledge through the academic disciplines while also preparing students for the professions. These two purposes are frequently in tension: hence widespread comment on the ‘theory-practice gap’. Academic work has struggled for relevance in the field. Practice academics have struggled to find a validated place for their expertise in academia – including publication in academic journals. In this paper, we follow a practice academic’s uncertain, but ultimately successful attempt to publish an article about television scheduling in the Journal of Popular Television. We find that the problem is not really about theory versus practice, or relevance versus rigour, but about profound epistemological differences. Practitioners’ knowledge needed to be translated into an epistemological form that an academic journal would find acceptable. This included translating, via the use of theory, the particular and specific knowledge of practitioners into universal, context-free discourse, and a focus on social processes rather than accounts of the agency of particular actors. Generosity and openness from both sides were important to make it work. We conclude that the practitioner gap will be a problem until universities recognise it as epistemological, and pay attention to the recruitment and use of skilled translators at the academic/practice boundary.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1675098
Pages (from-to)555-573
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy
Issue number6
Early online date22 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2019



  • Theory-practice gap
  • Epistemology
  • Publication
  • Practitioner
  • Pracademic
  • Writing

Cite this