Tools for the trade

An interactive resource to help you understand the language of educational research



Critical thinking



Language can be a tool and a barrier

All worlds, particularly academic ones create their own languages. Words are The MOST powerful cultural tool for communicating and conveying ideas. But they can all at once exclude others while including some.

The world of academic and educational research is perhaps one of the densest of these worlds with a bewildering “lexicon” (a lexicon is the dictionary of terms used for a specific subject or space). Here is a resource to help you invade, occupy, own and participate.

Methods vs methodology

An important distinction to make but what is the difference? often misused this video will highlight they key difference:



Important philosophical definitions useful to know about



“A paradigm is a typical model or system”


  • what is my philosophy of knowledge?
  • What paradigms have you experienced?
  • What more do you want to know?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • Who is included or excluded by certain paradigms?

Paradigms – “typical model(s) or system(s)”


There are many described models or systems of research. The one most familiar to scientists may not be named to them but is often described as the positivist paradigm.

Positivism describes a system of research based on the pursuable object of “truth” or fact. That there is an answer to be found and that the answer is “objective”, solid and perhaps, unchanging.

An example of this might be the randomised control trial to find out whether a new drug is good for diabetes management. The “truth” is whether the drug works or not.

The reason why it is important to understand epistemology is that this helps us understand that there are other views of the pursuit of “truth” and what knowledge is and how we create it. 

The Interpretivist paradigm (or model of research) draws on the idea that humans experience the world differently and build their own truth.

Take a teaching session on diabetes. One of the learners in the class has diabetes, the rest do not. That one students’ experience of what happens in that session will be completely different to the others. When we ask the question- was this an effective session? we are bound to get entirely different answers.

An interpretivist model suggests that we create a shared social vision and understanding of the world through experience and language. In this case in order to understand the session we need to know how different people experienced it.

Critical theory goes one step further and acknowledges the power dynamics, oppression and political forces influential in building knowledge.


OU access to paradigms

A feminist epistemology