This article discusses a doctoral study, completed by a then full-time teacher in a Pupil Referral Unit in the north of England, which shifted from a mixed-methods action research project to one that was largely autoethnographic in approach. This incorporated the use of fictionalized data. The aim of the project, both at conception and after the change of focus, was to inform the ongoing practice specifically related to the context of the setting. The former doctoral student and supervisor reflect upon the paradigmatic shift that this entailed, drawing upon a complex conceptualization of reflexivity, and pragmatism, to account for the underlying rationale and affordances of this shift. The uncomfortable realities that were experienced during the doctoral study as a result have given way to a different orientation on the project in the light of subsequent reflection. Consideration of a pragmatist understanding of language in relation to research ends has repositioned the nature of the paradigmatic shift. The confidence to change methodological approaches during a doctoral thesis is explored.