Here are a few terms that you might come across in academic writing on career theory along with my (possibly inaccurate) definitions. Please add suggestions for other entries in the comments.

Affect (n.) Emotion. Mood. So, positive affect = happy; negative affect = sad.
Agency Consciously acting to bring about predefined goals that are linked to one’s identity as an individual. You will often see the adjective ‘agentic’ (yuk!). Opposite of ‘communion’.
Attribution How you explain the causes of events. Is it something you can cause or influence (internal attribution)? Is it something outside your control (external attribution)?
Communion Establishing identity through opening oneself to interaction with others and developing shared goals and actions. Opposite of ‘agency’.
Constructivism People construct their own understanding of the world around them. What information they perceive and how they interpret it depends on how it fits into the framework of concepts they have already built. Everyone has their own truth. See also Social constructionism.
Dialectic Reaching a conclusion through a logical process, usually involving the interplay between opposing standpoints. The most common process is one of thesis (presenting an argument), antithesis (presenting the opposing point of view) and synthesis (trying to reconcile the two views into a final position).
Epistemology How do we know things? What is knowledge? How is it acquired, filtered and tested?
Etiology or aetiology What are the causes of something? What led up to this situation or event and made it happen?
Explication The process of unfolding and revealing the meaning or implications of something, to expand on a theory or principle ­— or just a fancy way of saying explanation.
Hermeneutics What does it signify? How do people interpret events and give meaning or significance to something?
Heuristic Discovering something (such as the solution to a problem) through experience (trial and error). Often described as generating a “rule of thumb” guideline, which may not be the best solution but which seems to work in most cases.
Idiographic A tendency to focus on specific individuals or circumstances. Using qualitative descriptive methods to look at the distinctive behaviours of individuals. (See Nomothetic)
Methodology How can we acquire knowledge systematically and consistently within a particular discipline?
Nomothetic A tendency to generalise or look for universal rules. Using quantitative statistical methods to look at average or representative behaviour of a group of people. (see Idiographic)
Ontology What is objective reality? What common concepts do people use to understand the world around them? What language do they use to share their experiences and understanding?
Ontogeny The development and growth of an organism (i.e. a human), an organisation, a society, a culture, etc.
Paradigm A view or model of how the world works that is shared by a group of people and which influences their expectations and behaviour.
Phenomenology Why do things happen? How do people consciously experience and perceive events and situations?
Positivism The only knowledge that is reliable or useful is that which comes from objective observation and measurement. It’s only truth if you can prove it.
Salience Relevance, applicability, relative importance.
Social constructionism Knowledge and meaning are dependent on the social context and arise from the practices, institutions and interactions of particular social groups.
Stochastic Showing behaviour that is random or so complex that it is hard to predict and is best looked at using probabilities. Sampling at random. Trying to find an answer to a problem by random means.
Teleology The study of design and purpose. Finding out what something is for.

Want to generate your own jargon-laden sentences? Try the academic jargon generator from the University of Chicago Writing Program.

You may also find this educational jargon generator useful if you are preparing career management modules.

  1. How to read academic articles… « Careers – in Theory

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