Most educational research in education is conducted to solving problems or to advocate for the needs of a particular group of individuals. Such projects usually attempt to familiarise the researcher with phenomena that are as yet unfamiliar. By contrast, ironic research seeks to raise questions about the familiar world by studying it as strange or unfamiliar. Taking a genealogical approach is one way of doing this; the strategic use of literary criticism is another. In this paper, I consider the importance of maintaining tension between 'problem-solving' and 'ironic' research in the conceptualisation and performance of educational thinking. My intent is to challenge the hegemonic view that problem-solving or advocacy are the only defensible rationales for conducting research in education. I make the case that ironic texts are necessary both to a liberal order of thought and to the field of educational practice.