TSElosophers meeting 29.9.2023. Participants: Erkki Lassila, Kari Lukka, Mia Salo, Minna-Liina Ojala, Otto Rosendahl.

Gendron, Y., Paugam, L., & Stolowy, H. (2023). Breaking incommensurability boundaries? On the production and publication of interparadigmatic research. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management.


The overarching theme of this article by Gendron et al. (2023) is to challenge Kuhn’s (1970) incommensurability thesis (see also Burrell and Morgan, 1979), which assumes that meaningful research work across different paradigms is not possible nor feasible from the philosophy of science perspective. The authors start by questioning this view and suggest that inter-paradigmatic research is not only possible because the assumed boundaries between paradigms are actually permeable, but that such research would also be desirable and beneficial for stimulating inter-paradigmatic dialogue between researchers of different philosophical assumptions and methodological approaches.

To justify their views, the authors rely on the analysis of four different inter-paradigmatic publications (Greenwood et al., 2002; Stolowy et al., 2019; Paugam et al., 2021; Stolowy et al., 2022 ). The authors have worked as coauthors on three of these four papers and therefore are able to reflect on the process that led to them getting them published. However, the main pair of comparisons is formed by the papers Greenwood et al. (2002) and Paugam et al. (2021). The authors emphasize the importance of “epistemic mediation”, the ability to reach “conforming” epistemological and other compromises during the research process, without which the required mutual agreement about the justifiability, or sustainability, of the research might not materialize – not only between the coauthors themselves but also with parties involved in the review process.

Our discussion

As a starting point, the idea of promoting inter-paradigmatic, or at least heterogeneity, in research methodologies was appreciated by the group. In addition, all group members seemed to agree that the paper was easy to read and understand, shedding some light on the practical aspects of the co-writing and publishing process of an inter-paradigmatic research paper. It touched on some of the ontological and methodological difficulties related to causality and complexity arising from such inter-paradigmatic endeavor. Overall, TSElosophers regarded the authors as seeking to advance the fashionable ‘phenomenon-based research’.

However, this particular piece of research, which seemed to be based on pragmatic premises, representing ‘naturalism’ in the analysis of knowledge production, could have been expected to offer more examination and interesting insights and discussions about the potential tensions likely present in inter-paradigmatic research. Therefore, TSElosophers felt that, in the end, the paper was not quite able to live up to the reasonable expectations of the readers. Instead of seriously examining epistemological tensions and inconsistencies that might ensue from an inter-paradigmatic mixture, the paper focused on discussing how interpretive and positivist methodologies can be combined in a single study by favoring one over the other, while the other is used more for complementing and reinforcing the primary view. Even this was done perhaps a bit too one-sided, as the authors seemed to focus mainly on their own work where the interpretive approach was dominant. It was a pity the authors largely skipped – perhaps were bound to skip since they did not write that paper – a more profound analysis of the Greenwood et al. (2002) paper, which would have represented the opposite approach.

Some of the group members also wondered how the inter-paradigmatic research presented in this study differed from the mixed-methods approach, simply combining qualitative and quantitative empirical work. In the end, because the article focused so much on the successful publication processes instead of ontological and epistemological tensions in inter-paradigmatic research, it could even be seen to represent a certain form of instrumentalism. In this paper, how researchers just happen to conduct their research overshadows the potential paradigmatic inconsistencies of that research. The process was seemingly just consecrated by the research output eventually getting published. TSElosophers were left wondering whether it is favorable for the scholarship to extend ‘naturalism’ in the analysis of knowledge production so easily that far.