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Paradigm Dilemmas

Preamble

Life is always an adventure. We journey through life facing new challenges and achieving new goals. For me, blogging is an essential part of reflecting on those challenges and goals and sharing that journey with others. I guess it is like a public diary for all to read.

I write these posts to share my thoughts, engage with others through the comments and continue to learn and understand more about myself. I’m currently on a journey through academic research and I thought it would be beneficial for me, and maybe you, to document the progression on this journey. I’m not sure of the route yet or even where I will end up, but that is often the appeal of all new journeys or adventures.

The beginning is a very good place to start

If I am going to become an effective researcher, publishing content that has the potential to impact locally, nationally and even internationally, I think it is important to develop a good foundation to work from.

Although I have a multitude of ideas, situations and concepts I would like to research, I am resisting the urge to dive straight into these without gaining an understanding of who my research self is, what I believe in and whether, for once in my life, I fit into an established research ‘niche’. Although I suspect that I am yet again going to be an atypical researcher, I am determined to try and find a place in the wealth of research methods where I can sit comfortably and make my name.

At this point, I have to say that I am going to get things wrong. I am more than happy for this to happen and I am really trusting in you, the reader, to correct or challenge me when these slip-ups occur. I’m not writing these posts using an academic style, but more a style that reflects the internal dialogue that is happening within my mind. 

I started my journey reading a book on Research Design by John and David Cresswell. This was recommended to me and I have to say I like the writing style and how the information is communicated. The first chapter discussed the selection of a research approaches and, even at this starting point, I was thrown into a dilemma.

My philosophical starting point.

I’ve always been aware of the three approaches to research being quantitive, qualitative and mixed methods research but the first chapter took me into the realm of philosophical worldviews.

The authors use the term worldview to represent a basic set of beliefs but state that others have called them a range of other terms including paradigms, epistemologies and ontologies. I am completely sure that there are subtle differences between these, but for now, I am going to use the word paradigms – mainly because I like the sound of it!

I was eager to read the four paradigms that the authors detailed, looking forward to slipping neatly into one of these. However, either myself or the existing paradigms were not prepared for that.

 

Conflicting disciplines

I always refer to myself as an uncreative, logical person. I tend not to see shades of grey in my black and white world. The subjects that I have studied throughout my education have been scientific, to say the least. Mathematics and three sciences (chemistry, physics and biology) dominated my O level results and my A levels were in the three sciences with a splattering of mathematics on the side. At degree level I studied environmental studies and social biology which contributed to my BSc degree. My prior experience was deeply entrenched in the scientific approach. Numbers, hypotheses and variables was a world I felt happy in and I revelled in statistical analysis and disproving theories.

From this background, you would expect me to fit nicely into the post/positivism paradigm. I definitely have an inclination to demonstrate that theories are incorrect and that the data I would collect would shape knowledge and outcomes. However, the discipline that I now teach in often lends itself more to the constructive approach where I am seeking to understand contexts or settings and, through engaging with qualitative data, the interpretation is linked to the human community. The process is inductive where data is leading to conclusions.

And this is where my initial conflict occurs. I have been trying for some time to formulate inquiry questions. I find this very difficult and I now think that it is because of this conflict between paradigms that I am finding the formulation difficult. In my mind, I am creating questions from a postpositive viewpoint, looking to disprove hypotheses through the collection of data mainly involving numbers, but in reality, my research question is more attuned to the constructive approach. My scientific experience up to this point is what I am defaulting to rather than embracing a new and possibly more appropriate paradigm in order to research in.

 

Possibly conclusion

Reading this first chapter has really sparked my interest in these philosophical views of research paradigms. I’ve probably made many errors in this post so far, but that is important for learning. Now that I am aware of this possible conflict I am willing to engage with this and actually start sorting things out in my head.

I have a really bad grammatical error that I use all the time. Using ‘which’ when I should be using ‘that’. Don’t ask me how this has occurred but, since recognising the error I have started to correct it. And this is what I am sure will happen now with my future research questions. In order to move forward, I need to examine my own personal views and philosophical standpoint. Once this has been clarified then the road to the next stage of my research achievements can be embarked on.

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