Mixed methods as the new paradigm? I hope not!

The Melbourne School of Health Sciences (social work, nursing and physiotherapy) had what was called a roundtable on the topic of ‘mixed methods’. Before I went into the session I thought that mixed methods was going to be something of a discipline specific ripple. On the other side of it I am left hoping that I am right. While the idea of combining both qualitative and quantitative aspects in the very design of research and research analysis is not necessarily a bad thing, I think doing mixed methods for the sake of doing mixed methods runs the danger of just poor research. Including a ‘comments’ section on a questionnaire or running one focus group after a questionnaire may be very useful when it comes to the researcher being able to explore the answers that they are getting on their questionnaires, but I do not believe that it is going to be able to disclose what the answers they are getting actually mean.

Maybe I just have a grudge against ‘mixed methods’ because in one article arguing for mixed methods research the authors argue that strong relativism is saying that people can drive on the left-hand side of the road or the right-hand side, rather than acknowledging what relativism really means is rules about which side of the road you drive on are somewhat arbitrary (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004: 16).

Major journals do not seem to be getting on the band wagon and while it is a bit sad to see that somebody has actually set up a Journal of Mixed Methods Research, at least I can rest easy that the poorly thought out work that has made up the few bits and pieces of work on the topic I have read are kept safely away from contaminating anything that I would actually want to read.

Johnson, R. B., and A. J. Onwuegbuzie. 2004. Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come. Educational Researcher 33:14-26.

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