This part locates the research enterprise in several contexts. It commences with positivist and scientific contexts of research and then proceeds to show the strengths and weaknesses of such traditions for educational research. As an alternative paradigm, the cluster of approaches that can loosely be termed interpretive, naturalistic, phenomenological, interactionist and ethnographic are brought together and their strengths and weaknesses for educational research are also examined. The rise of critical theory as a paradigm in which educational research is conducted has been meteoric and its implications for the research undertaking are addressed in several ways in this chapter, resonating with curriculum research and feminist research. Indeed critical theory links the conduct of educational research with politics and policy-making, and this is reflected in the discussions here of research and evaluation, arguing how much educational research has become evaluative in nature. That educational research serves a political agenda is seen in the later sections of this part, though the links between educational research and policy-making are typically far from straightforward. The intention in this section is to introduce the reader to different research traditions, and, rather than advocating slavish adherence to a single research paradigm, we suggest that ‘fitness for purpose’ must be the guiding principle: different research paradigms are suitable for different research purposes and questions. Different research traditions spawn different styles of research; researchers must make informed choices of research traditions, mindful of the political agendas that their research might serve.