Paradigms – The Connection with Theory

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a shared set of assumptions with a purpose.

Why aggregate concepts and principles by providing rules for their application?

If the meaning of paradigms is understood, the meaning of quality will follow.


Paradigms are often seen as different concepts to different people. Paul Davidson Reynolds wrote an exemplary book that was first published in 1971, A Primer in Theory Construction. His book was intended to be as an introduction to the way theories are constructed, stated, tested, and connected together to form a scientific body of knowledge.  Reynolds asserted that there is a natural order of things when considering ideas, paradigms, Kuhn Paradigms and theories. First in the series is the idea that the originator puts together utilizing abstract statements that are considered part of scientific knowledge. Once the “idea” is documented, according to the rules and regulations suggested by Barker, the “idea” moves on to the category of theory.

For Reynolds, the communication of the new theory and the paradigm happen at the same time. Theory first, well communicated among colleagues, may become one of two types of paradigms according to Reynolds. First is the Kuhn Paradigm. It includes a unique and unprecedented orientation toward the phenomena, a dramatic break with the past existing orientations, and also involves a major shift in research strategy. Kuhn referred to his paradigms as “scientific revolutions.” The second type of paradigm that Reynolds referred to was simply a paradigm. The paradigm represents a definite shift in orientation but is less than a scientific revolution. Please note that for either of these types of paradigms to exist there had to be one in existence in the first place. All theories are paradigms but not all theories are Kuhn Paradigms. A key to our understanding of the paradigm from Reynolds’s perspective is the purpose of a scientific knowledge. I should mention that I am in agreement with Barker in his belief that paradigms are wide spread and are not only applicable to the scientific arena, as perhaps Kuhn had. Reynolds provided us with his perspective on the purpose of a body of scientific knowledge.

The Purpose of Scientific Knowledge is to provide:

  • A method of organizing and categorizing “things,” a topology;
  • Predictions of future events;
  • Explanations of past events;
  • A sense of understanding about what causes events;
  • The potential for control of events.

If scientific knowledge is captured in individual theories or bundles of theories and if all theories are paradigms to some degree then perhaps, and only perhaps, the purpose of a paradigm is the purpose of scientific knowledge.

Next Post: An example…

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Acknowledgements: Paul Davidson Reynolds