Critical incidents as formative influences on the work of educational researchers: understanding an insider perspective through narrative enquiry

Christopher Holligan, Michael Wilson

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Drawing on insights from phenomenological sociology and various strands of socio-cultural theory, this paper reports the findings of a qualitative investigation into critical incidents as formative influences in the research orientation and research cultivation of 22 academics working in research-intensive university education departments. The study first outlines the context in which educational research has taken place, focusing on evidence of tension and conflict associated with differences in epistemological and professional orientation. The research findings indicate two ideal-type categories of educational research professional: the 'intellectual-academic', motivated primarily by the intellectual virtue of research excellence and accountability to the academic community; and the 'humanistic-professional', motivated by service to the wider community. It is concluded that a synergy of both orientations is necessary in producing quality research that is both rigorous and meaningful to a constituency of stakeholders extending beyond the immediate interests of academe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-473
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2015


  • research cultivation
  • research orientations
  • research identities
  • lifeworlds
  • narrative enquiry
  • ideal-types
  • critical incidents

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