Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology

Mackenzie, N. & Knipe, S. (2006). Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology. Issues In Educational Research, 16(2), 193-205.

This article is focused on research dilemmas and confusions specifically around qualitative versus quantitative work, and advocate for mixed methods.


The theoretical framework of a research approach. This defines how knowledge is studied and interpreted and defines motivations and expectations for research.

Positivist and Postpostivist

The social world can be studied in the same way as the natural world; it can be directly observed. The focus is on causality and empirical theory testing. Postpositivism rose after WWII and posits that all research is influenced by a number of theories, outside of the one being tested. Postpositivists may also see the world similarly to constructivists, in that the world is ambiguous, variable, and has multiple realities. Both positivism and postpositivism are most associated with quantitative methods.


Reality is socially constructed and multiple. Often focuses on participant viewpoints and experiences, and acknowledges the impact of the research on the researcher and vice versa. Often does not begin with theory but inductively develops theory or patterns through research. Most associated with qualitative research, but often includes mixed methods as well. Quantitative data often expands or deepends qualitative work.


Arose in the 80s and 90s due to disatisfaction with the white, cishet male perspective of dominant paradigms. Approaches research as intertwined with politics and power. Focuses on developing research agendas that positively change the lives of participants and insitutions in communities. They often use qualitative and quantitative methods in similar ways as constructivists.


The pragmatic paradigm is not loyal to a single approach, reality, or philosophy, but instead focuses on the research problem and what approach would best address it. While mixed methods are often seen as most associated with the pragmatic paradigm, they are also useful to other paradigms.