Experienced researcher:

Most students with whom I’ve worked initially understand the word ‘paradigm’ as used in the popular-press sense—of a ‘big idea’ of some sort. In a way, that understanding is valid, but conceptual frameworks and epistemologies can also be seen as big ideas. Students need to know what the differences are among all of these big ideas. A second issue is that novice researchers can get caught up in a certain paradigmatic trend and feel pressure to follow it. Many of my graduate students have felt compelled to call themselves post-modernists when they have no idea of what a modernist is and how to be ‘post’ it. ‘Post-modernism’ is another expression that, like paradigm, is freely used throughout both the popular and academic presses, but which, upon closer investigation, turns out to be used in enough different ways as to make it almost meaningless. One of my colleagues recently cautioned me against a prescriptive use of research vocabulary, but, as a researcher working in the field of second language, I see it as a dire necessity in order to avoid confusion and mistaken identities.