What paradigm am I in?!


Hello all,

To start with, ARGH! I'm a bit stressed and I was wondering if you guys could help, I know we're close to Christmas and shutting down our brains for the festive season but I would be really grateful for your advice.
I'm struggling with my methodology still and I'm a bit confused about what to do. When I started my research study I was approaching it pragmatically, from a Teddlie & Tashakkori point of view, pulling on Dewey etc. My supervisors hated this because my methodology is predominately ethnography but I do have a quantitative element, as this study is primarily a case study of team working and I wanted a holistic view that would also allow for triangulation (which my sup also hates but that's another story!).
I then tried to fall in line with my supervisors and their preferred approach which is constructionism but on submitting a draft methodology chapter I have been told that my language is too realist and I obviously don't have a grip on my methodology!!! No **** Sherlock! But they don't seem to want to help me, they want me to figure it out on my own which is just making me more confused!

So, I will outline where I stand epistemologically/ontologically (I don't think they are words but you get what I mean!) by using the tree analogy and I would like you lovely peeps to suggest where you think my research belongs:

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound? I would answer YES, it does make a sound, whether there are humans there to hear it or not, but what the noise means will be different depending on your culture and social upbringing. I think Fischer covers it with the sound of thunder, which to my culture is a sign that there is a storm and possible lightning, but to some tribes is a sign of aggression and anger. I believe that the objective world and subjective world can co-exist peacefully as can social and natural science! (What I also believe, and got into LOTS of trouble for saying was, in a pragmatic way is this really important and why can't I just go and do the research?!)

Now forgive me if I'm wrong as I've just about had enough of all this, but I have been reading Crotty and he states that the existence of an objective and subjective world is compatible with constructionism. Should I be trying to pander to what my supervisors want or should I stick to my guns and head down my pragmatic/postpositivist route? (see, the more I read it confuses me!) To be honest, I'm really angry that they know I've been struggling with this from day 1 and they've still not helped me, even though I've asked for help repeatedly. So, :-s to them!

Any advice? I'm so confused and my brain is all over the place, I'm panicking massively about this now as I know for a PhD I need to know and be able to defend my position :-( help!

Thank you!


Hi Lindalou,
I'm afraid I can't help with your paradigm question as it's all outside of my area, but I can certainly relate to your frustration and panic. It really is a theoretical jungle out there [tree pun intended :p].

Perhaps your supervisors are actually as confused about things as you. I think they like their candidate to 'convince' them independently, and then they will adopt your position on things until someone else convinces them otherwise. I'm inclined to say you should stick to your guns - a big part of the PhD process is taking a position and in the end you will probably find it harder to defend the position that you feel was forced on you.


Thanks Lughna, I think I just need to have more confidence and convince them that I know what I'm talking about - I'll have to convince myself first though :)


Have you looked at scientific realism or even just pragmatism? My methods chapter is a bit of a haze at the moment; all I remember is talking about iterative-parallel emerging research design and holism. Actually, you may find some of the stuff by Piet Verschuren useful for arguing for holism, particularly "Holism Versus Reductionism in Modern Social Science Research" (should come up if you stick it into google scholar).


Stick with the paradigm that suits you and your research goals, is my advise. Otherwise you will struggle through your research. This is, after all, your work and not the work of your supervisors. They should be able to deal with work in different paradigms...

I find nothing better than Lincoln and Guba for sorting out which paradigm you are in ( Creswell is good as well)--and Lincoln and Guba have some cool handy charts that makes it all easy to locate your paradigm, your methodology, epistiemology ( why does that sound like something that is done to women in childbirth...) and ontology within the paradigm. I do not have the book handy, but someone might be able to post the page numbers that take you straight to the charts. Some people straddle paradigms, which L and G seem to think is OK.

Stick to what works for you, make sure you reference, reference, reference as you go to anchor the work, and enjoy! Hope that helps.


Thanks guys, appreciate your advice. Back to the books for me then! Have a good Christmas everyone (tree)