Just Tell Me What I Need To Know: Paradigm and Methodology

Today, I’m back with the next part of this series: Just Tell Me What I Need To Write.

Some things to remember:

  • I’m providing a starting point. This is not meant to be taken as the right way to write. It is intended to give you some guidance during a confusing process.
  • It is easier to edit an existing thing than to start from scratch. So…the goal is to write the worst draft ever! This is not about spending hours and hours making the perfect first sentence. Writing is a process. You will spend more hours editing than you think. So the goal is to have something to edit.
  • Show up with something! Always, always, always refer to the Graduate’s school guidelines, your program’s manual, and your advisor/chair. This guide is meant to give you something to show up with.

Part two is about how to write about your paradigm and the first paragraph for the methodology section. The next post will address methods, positionality statement, participants, and research site.


Do you usually skip the methodology section when reading articles?

Skipping will severely hinder your understanding of the importance of this section, which will lead you to not be clear when writing/defending your own methodology section.

Note: This section is small but mighty in relation to the rest of your paper. Don’t let that mislead you into thinking it does not need time and care to be written appropriately.


I will be breaking up the methodology section into multiple posts in order to demonstrate the importance of clearly defining your research design.

The two examples used for this post both use a critical/transformative paradigm and narrative inquiry methodology.

  • First, I will provide a brief overview of paradigms and methodologies.
  • Second, I will provide a guide to writing the first paragraph of the methodology section of your paper.
  • Third, I will walk you step-by-step on how to write the first paragraph of your methodology section.
  • Lastly, I will demonstrate how the guide was used in two published examples.
Overview

To start, let me give you some background information on these often missed components.

Paradigm

A paradigm is a way of looking at the world. It is composed of certain philosophical assumptions that guide and direct thinking and action (Mertens, 2010, p. 7).

Guba and Lincoln (2005) identify four basic belief systems characterized by the following questions that help define a paradigm:

  1. The axiological question asks, “What is the nature of ethics?”
  2. The ontological question asks, “What is the nature of reality?”
  3. The epistemological question asks, “What is the nature of knowledge and the relationship between the knower and the would-be known?”
  4. The methodological question asks, “How can the knower go about obtaining the desired knowledge and understandings?” (as cited in Mertens, 2010, p. 10)

I will not be going too deep into paradigms and the different types. I will say, however, these are some consideration when reflecting on your own understandings in the context of your specific research project.

Methodology

Methodology is “the study – the description, the explanation, and the justification-of methods, and not the methods themselves” (Kaplan, 1964, p. 18).

Restate the purpose of your study when beginning the methodology section in order to transition the reader. By restating the purpose will help the reader make connections between components of your research design. The plainer you can make the connections (i.e., rationale) in your study, the easier it will be to understand your study as a whole.

When writing about the methodology section, also consider the following guide:

  1. Clearly, identify which paradigm and methodology you used for your study. Note: A general qualitative research study is NOT A THING.
  2. Briefly, describe the theory (-ology) behind the methodology.
  3. Explain why this particular methodology was used for this study. Your paradigm helps with this rationale.


Methodology Guide

Clearly, identify which paradigm and methodology you used for your study.

The purpose of this ______ (paradigm) ___________ (methodology) was to ____________ (purpose statement).

This study was informed by ________ (paradigm and methodology).

In this ______ (methodology), I used a _______ (paradigm.

Ex. In this inquiry, we position our philosophical stance in the transformative paradigm (Linder & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 386).

Ex. The present study was informed by critical narrative inquiry (Nicolazzo, 2016, p. 1178).

Briefly, describe the theory (-ology) behind the methodology.

_______ (methodology) is the study of _________.

Ex. ...which centers the lived experiences of those who have been traditionally marginalized by systemic oppression (Linder & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 386).

Ex. ...critical narrative inquiry is a form of storytelling that seeks to ‘prick the consciousness of readers by inviting a reexamination of the values and interests undergirding certain discourses, practices, and institutional arrangements’ (Nicolazzo, 2016, p. 1178).

Explain why this particular methodology was used for this study (Rationale).

  • How does your paradigm connect with your methodology?
  • What are your obligations (e.g., axiology,  ontology) as a researcher underneath this particular pairing between paradigm and methodology?
  • What are some things you may need to consider?

The transformative paradigm directly addresses the politics in research by confronting social oppression at whatever levels it occurs (Oliver, 1992; Reason, 1994). Thus, transformative researchers consciously and explicitly position themselves side by side with the less powerful in a joint effort to bring about social transformation (Mertens, 2009, p. 21).

Ex. By asking female students to share their experiences related to their campus activism and intersectionality and then exploring the commonalities in those stories, we collaborated with participants to co-construct meaning from those commonalities (Creswell, 2007). As researchers, our task is to understand the common themes emerging from the data to accurately represent, in storied text, the lived experiences shared by participants (Creswell, 2007).

Ex. Thus, critical narrative inquiry seeks not only to uncover the ‘hidden ideological assumptions’ within which educational contexts are embedded (Kincheloe, 2011, p. 88), but also is committed to embodying a politics in which researcher(s) and participant(s) are ‘linked by an identity politics struggle for social action via a participatory democracy bent on viewing knowledge as a unified form of power’ (Moss, 2004, p. 371). Here, one can understand critical narrative inquiry as praxis, or as both a methodological construct as well as a way of life for those who (seek to) resist normative discourses.


Putting It All Together

You should be able to address all of these things in the first paragraph.

The purpose of this ______ (paradigm) ___________ (methodology) was to ____________ (purpose statement). _______ (methodology) is the study of _________.  _________(methodology) was used because it addresses ___________ (reason) and __________ (reason).

Example 1: (Linder & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 386)

Within the transformative paradigm, we utilized narrative inquiry to better understand the specific experiences of self-identified women of color activists. In essence, narrative inquiry is the study of lived experiences through story (Clandinin, 2007). By asking female students to share their experiences related to their campus activism and intersectionality and then exploring the commonalities in those stories, we collaborated with participants to co-construct meaning from those commonalities (Creswell, 2007). As researchers, our task is to understand the common themes emerging from the data to accurately represent, in storied text, the lived experiences shared by participants (Creswell, 2007).

Purpose statement: Within the transformative paradigm, we utilized narrative inquiry to better understand the specific experiences of self-identified women of color activists.

Definition of methodology: In essence, narrative inquiry is the study of lived experiences through story (Clandinin, 2007).

Rationale:

(Reason 1) By asking female students to share their experiences related to their campus activism and intersectionality and then exploring the commonalities in those stories, we collaborated with participants to co-construct meaning from those commonalities (Creswell, 2007).

“researchers consciously and explicitly position themselves side by side with the less powerful in a joint effort to bring about social transformation (Mertens, 2009, p. 21).”

Power dynamics also exist within the research process between the researcher and participant. By working with the activists through co-constructing meaning, the researchers of this study shifted this power dynamic.

(Reason 2) As researchers, our task is to understand the common themes emerging from the data to accurately represent, in storied text, the lived experiences shared by participants (Creswell, 2007).

“..narrative inquiry is the study of lived experiences through story (Linder & Rodriguez, 2012, p. 386).”

In line with the methodology, the researchers are representing the participants’ experiences and interpretations of those experiences through storied text.

Therefore, Linder and Rodriguez are in connection with both their paradigm and methodology.

Example 2: (Nicolazzo, 2016, p. 1178)

The present study was informed by critical narrative inquiry. An extension of narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), critical narrative inquiry is a form of storytelling that seeks to ‘prick the consciousness of readers by inviting a reexamination of the values and interests undergirding certain discourses, practices, and institutional arrangements’ (Barone, 1992, p. 143). Thus, critical narrative inquiry seeks not only to uncover the ‘hidden ideological assumptions’ within which educational contexts are embedded (Kincheloe, 2011, p. 88), but also is committed to embodying a politics in which researcher(s) and participant(s) are ‘linked by an identity politics struggle for social action via a participatory democracy bent on viewing knowledge as a unified form of power’ (Moss, 2004, p. 371). Here, one can understand critical narrative inquiry as praxis, or as both a methodological construct as well as a way of life for those who (seek to) resist normative discourses.

Identify paradigm and methodology: The present study was informed by critical narrative inquiry.

Definition of methodology: An extension of narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000), critical narrative inquiry is a form of storytelling that seeks to ‘prick the consciousness of readers by inviting a reexamination of the values and interests undergirding certain discourses, practices, and institutional arrangements’ (Barone, 1992, p. 143).

Rationale:

(Reason 1) Thus, critical narrative inquiry seeks not only to uncover the ‘hidden ideological assumptions’ within which educational contexts are embedded (Kincheloe, 2011, p. 88)...

“confronting social oppression at whatever levels it occurs (Mertens, 2009, p. 21).”

Nicolazzo explicitly states that this paradigm coupled with this methodology will help to identify and confront oppression, even those found in everyday assumptions.

(Reason 2) ...but also is committed to embodying a politics in which researcher(s) and participant(s) are ‘linked by an identity politics struggle for social action via a participatory democracy bent on viewing knowledge as a unified form of power’ (Moss, 2004, p. 371). Here, one can understand critical narrative inquiry as praxis, or as both a methodological construct as well as a way of life for those who (seek to) resist normative discourses.

“...consciously and explicitly position themselves side by side with the less powerful in a joint effort to bring about social transformation (Mertens, 2009, p. 21).”

The goal of the critical paradigm is to not only highlight oppression and power dynamics, it also requires action or social change. Narrative Inquiry is also being used a tool in social change by Nicolazzo and participants working together to resist those everyday assumptions about identity (particularly the intersections between gender and race).


Conclusion

Yes, there is a lot of information in this post. Please, take the time to consider these philosophical points as these undergird your entire study by answering the question of why your study is needed and it’s intended impact.

Need help writing your paper?

Join me on December 28th for the Qualitative Paper Workshop!


Kaplan, A. (1964). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science. San Francisco, CA: Chandler.

Linder, C., & Rodriguez, K. L. (2012). Learning for the experiences of self-identified women of color activists. Journal of College Student Development, 53(3), 383-298.

Mertens, D. M. (2010). Research and evaluation in education and psychology: Integrating diversity with quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Nicolazzo, Z. (2016) ‘It’s a hard line to walk’: black non-binary trans* collegians’ perspectives on passing, realness, and trans*-normativity.  International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29(90), 1173-1188, doi: 10.1080/09518398.2016.1201612

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