Paradigmatic Aspects of Inquiry-Based Research

My first introduction to the concept of a paradigm was in reading Covey (2004) as he discussed what a paradigm shift was. It was an initiation to different perspectives, and his description of the different contexts for a family and a crying child on a train caused a lasting paradigm shift in me. The concept of these differences in perspectives or worldview has been valuable in my personal growth, my ability to work with a diverse set of clientele, and in working with social work students. The foundational aspect of a paradigm is also useful in my growth as a scholar as well.

The analogous idea of a paradigm being likened to a pair of glasses that we wear, in which lenses are made up of our experiences, biology, values, and particular context, is perhaps my favorite conceptualization of the concept of a paradigm. Lincoln et al. (2011) offer a reasonably exhaustive framework for comparing and contrasting paradigms related to positivism, postpositivism, critical theories, constructivism, and participatory theories. These components of each model are broken into themes related to fundamental beliefs, positions on selected practical issues, and critical issues of the time.

Being able to have a taxonomical way of breaking down paradigms is useful for an inquiry-based research project. Montuori (2012) talks about having inquiry-based versus discipline focused topics as one of the dimensions of a transdisciplinary approach to research. One way that this breakdown of the paradigmatic view of these theories is useful can be in the initial planning and framing of our inquiry. As somebody who has not conducted a significant amount of research, laying out the aspects of each theory can help to both pick a theoretical framework to work under and to frame the research question. It gives insight into how we understand knowledge or the posture we might be taking using each of the frameworks.

Resilience as a research topic benefits from using an inquiry-based approach. There are many valid methods for helping researchers understand the subject of resilience. One could consider projects from a positivist perspective and calculate statistical information for how many youths in a given sample participation in activities that promote resilience. Being able to apply the transformative paradigm, as described by Chilisa (2012), can help focus on addressing the negative perceptions held by many people that people with disabilities have. These negative perceptions can be particularly apparent for those with mental health conditions and emotional and behavioral disabilities. Taking a transformative or critical approach gives the researchers a method for understanding and thinking about the research. It also provides that the researcher must work on addressing the differences in power in a meaningful manner.

In some of my experiences, organizations that collect real-world data are not always the best at being able to analyze and share that information. In a school-based setting, I have found that teams might be good at collecting data regarding student’s behavior but that they lack skills in analyzing and using that data to modify the negative behaviors. Volunteering with a community-based prevention coalition, every year, we would collect survey data from the community to understand perceptions related to substance abuse. But rarely would we find meaningful methods for sharing that information back to the community. The practice and ethical focus on disseminating the results, as described by Chilisa (2012), is a refreshing perspective associated with indigenous research methodology.


Chilisa, B. (2012). 1 - Situating knowledge systems. In Indigenous research methodologies (pp. 1-43). Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: restoring the character ethic (Rev. ed.). New York: Free Press.

Lincoln, Y. S., Lynham, S. A., & Guba, E. G. (2011). 6 -  Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences revisited. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (4th ed, pp. 97-128). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Montuori, A. (2012, August 20). Five dimensions of applied transdisciplinarity [Integral Leadership Review]. Retrieved from


This essay was originally submitted as a large group discussion for TSD 8215 - Varieties of Scholarly Experience as a part of the course work for CIIS’s transformative studies program.