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Definitions of Paradigm

  1. (noun) A framework, model, or pattern used to formulate generalizations and theories based on shared assumptions, concepts, questions, methods, practices, and values that structure inquiry.
  2. (noun) A widely accepted view.

Paradigm Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: par·a·digm

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /pAIR-uh-diem/
  • British English – /pAr-uh-diem/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈpɛrəˌdaɪm/
  • British English – /ˈparədʌɪm/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: paradigms
  • Paradigms shape how something is seen and how it is understood; however a paradigm should not be confused with a theory, which is an attempt to provide an explanation for something. Paradigms inform theories but are not theories.
  • In choosing a paradigm for their research, all researchers must account for personal bias.
  • Sociologists use numerous paradigms to study and understand society.
  • Paradigmaticism refers to a strong allegiance to a paradigm.
  • Thomas Kuhn (1922–1996) wrote about the history of science in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and popularized the idea of paradigms in the social sciences. Kuhn contended that science was influenced and shaped by social systems and that progress in scientific knowledge occurs through shifts from one paradigm to another. Kuhn theorized that paradigms remained unchallenged until enough unexplained anomalies occur that a new paradigm was developed to explain them more effectively. Kuhn developed the idea of normal science to describe scientific work completed during stable paradigm period and a paradigm shift to describe the rapid and revolutionary change from one paradigm to another, such as the movement from geocentrism to heliocentrism during the Copernican revolution.
  • Also called theoretical perspective.
  • Sociologists (verb) paradigmatize (adjective) paradigmatic ideas (adverb) paradigmatically.

Related Quotations

  • “By their nature, paradigms are neither true or false. They are merely ways of looking and of seeking explanations. Thus, they may be judged as useful or not useful in a particular situation, but not true or false” (Babbie 2011:35).
  • “Paradigms are often difficult to recognize as such because they are so implicit, assumed, taken for granted. They seem more like ‘the way things are’ than like one possible point of view among many” (Babbie 2011:33–34).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Works Consulted

Bilton, Tony, Kevin Bonnett, Pip Jones, David Skinner, Michelle Stanworth, and Andrew Webster. 1996. Introductory Sociology. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan.

Carrabine, Eamonn, Pam Cox, Maggy Lee, Ken Plummer, and Nigel South. 2009. Criminology: A Sociological Introduction. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Paradigm

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “paradigm.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/paradigm/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

paradigm. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/paradigm/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “paradigm.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/paradigm/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“paradigm.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/paradigm/>.