This article maps out research in professional education with reference to a threefold typology of paradigms i.e. the positivist, interpretivist and critical paradigms. The rationale for such an endeavour is fourfold. First, it directs attention to the neglected territory of methodology which is essential for researcher reflexivity. Second, it shows that most research in social work education has been situated within the positivist or interpretivist paradigms, and the relative dearth of studies in the critical paradigm raises important questions about anti-oppressive practice in research. Third, a comparison of studies in different spheres of professional education indicates that research into social work education has often not been as rich or robust as research into medicine or teaching, and this deserves further reflection. Finally, there is a practical rationale – although this exercise casts doubt upon our current capacity to develop evidence-based educational reforms, it should also signpost fruitful avenues for future research.