All entries for Tuesday 01 March 2016

March 01, 2016

The Philosophy of Mixed Methods: Getting Clearer!

Things have progressed since the previous post!

Recently I have been exploring six different Philosophical perspectives that after an initial round of reading thought were most appropriate for my Mixed Methods research. Most of these advocate a middle ground approach to understanding reality that aligns with Mixed Methods methodology, and these have been Complexity Theory, Post Structuralism, Post Modernism, Post Positivism, Pragmatism and Critical Realism.

After the previous round of reading, I have concluded that there are four Philosophical perspectives that strongly advocate a middle ground approach, or in other words advocate a multiple reality perspective, that aligns strongly with a Mixed Methods methodology and they are Complexity Theory, Post Postivitism, Pragmatism and Critical Realism. Each of these shall be explored and discussed on here in time but it suffices to say here that they have the common characteristic of rejecting the Absolutism and Relativism paradigms, the opposite sides of the paradigm continuum. They reject the idea that reality can be understood either through Absolutism or Relativism, and therefore place emphasis on the view of reality as a mixture of observable, measurable, deterministic and controllable elements, and also elements that are dynamic, chaotic, unobservable, and cannot be reduced to variables. This leans suitably towards a Mixed Methods methodology, but the extent to which each paradigm advocates Mixed Methods differ, and the writers and practitioners within each paradigm differ further the extent to which they advocate Mixed Methods methodology. The most common paradigm used is Pragmatism but just because a paradigm is more dominant it doesn’t mean that it is most suitable for my own research.

The other two paradigms Post Structuralism and Post Modernism are not suitable as a guide of Mixed Methods inquiry but are suitable in building a platform upon which Mixed Methods can be criticised. Both paradigms reject the modernist perspectives of reality (e.g., postivism, absolutism, and so on) and strongly advocate a multiple reality perspective therefore lean fairly strongly towards relativism and constructivism paradigms. From the readings that I have carried out so far, both perspectives appear to criticise Mixed Methods on Philosophical grounds: that Mixed Methods orientate towards Positivism, that there is a series lack of Mixed Methods researchers engaging at a Philosophical level, and therefore that there are various ontological and epistemological issues that remain unresolved within a Mixed Methods context. So whilst they do not reject Mixed Methods outright as an interesting and useful methodology, Post Structuralists and Post Modernists criticise Mixed Methods methodology at the Philosophical level and therefore have been critical of the Pragmatist approach.

So there we are! Four paradigms that have shown promise as a guide of Mixed Methods inquiry, and a couple of paradigms that are not useful as a guide of Mixed Methods inquiry but useful in understanding the criticisms and critiques of Mixed Methods methodology. It’s alright in any thesis to write loads about the wonderfulness of a methodology but the criticisms need equal attention and solutions need to be developed, explained, applied, and evaluated, all of which I aim to achieve in my thesis.

March 2016

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