Disentangling Professional Discretion: A Conceptual and Methodological Approach


Publication date


Series/Report no

Professions and Professionalism;4(3)


Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Document type


With the aim of furthering the investigation of professional discretion, this article builds on a combination of a conceptual framework for understanding discretion and an advanced method for collecting data on human judgments. Discretion is described as consisting of two dimensions – a structural dimension (discretionary space) and an epistemic dimension (discretionary reasoning). Discretionary reasoning is defined as the cognitive activity that may take place within the discretionary space of professional judgment, and it is illustrated by means of Toulmin’s model of argumentation. The factorial survey, a quasi-experimental vignette approach, is proposed and illustrated as a method with substantial potential for studying agreement and disagreement in discretionary reasoning. While the combined framework presented in this article could form the basis for case studies and/or comparative studies of discretionary reasoning across professions and contexts, the results of such studies could be used for improving practice within a specific professional field.



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Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://dx.doi.org/10.7577/pp.808
  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/2373