Mixing Methods in Psychology: The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Theory and Practice

Mixing Methods in Psychology: The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Theory and Practice

Mixing Methods in Psychology: The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Theory and Practice

Mixing Methods in Psychology: The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Theory and Practice

Synopsis

Can qualitative and quantitative methods be combined effectively in psychology? What are the practical and theoretical issues involved? Should different criteria be used to judge qualitative and quantitative research? The acceptance of qualitative research methods in psychology has lead to a split between qualitative and quantitative methods and has raised questions about how best to assess the validity of research practice. While the two approaches have traditionally been seen as competing paradigms, more recently, researchers have begun to argue that the divide is artificial. Mixing Methods in Psychology looks in detail at the problems involved in attempting to reconcile qualitative and quantitative methods both within and across subjects. All angles of the debate are discussed, covering areas as diverse as health, education, social, clinical and economic psychology. The contributors, who are some of the leading figures in the field, present theoretical and methodological guidance as well as practical examples of how quantitative and qualitative methods can be fruitfully combined. By aiming to bridge the gap between the two methods, this book reveals how each can inform the other to produce more accurate theories and models of human behaviour. This groundbreaking text will be essential reading for students and researchers wishing to combine methods, or for anyone who simply wants to get a better understanding of the debate.

Excerpt

Zazie Todd, Brigitte Nerlich, and Suzanne McKeown

Synopsis and rationale

Qualitative methods has been a growth area in psychology in recent years. The many books introducing psychologists to qualitative research methods include Banister, Burman, Parker, Taylor, and Tindal's (1994) Qualitative Methods in Psychology: A Research Guide and Richardson's (1996b) edited BPS Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for Psychology and the Social Sciences. At the same time, the debate over qualitative methods has continued to rage in the pages of The Psychologist.

In most cases, qualitative methods are seen as an alternative and competing paradigm to quantitative methods. The differences between the two approaches are illustrated by Bryman (1988), with quantitative research tending to use hard, reliable data, and to have a view of the social world as external to the observer, in contrast to qualitative methods which use rich data and see the social world as being constructed by the observer. Hammersley (1996) distinguishes two approaches to the qualitative-quantitative divide, neither of which he sees as an accurate conceptualisation: the idea of them as competing paradigms breaks down under closer scrutiny since neither position is always identified by a particular epistemological viewpoint or a particular kind of data; the alternative approach, that of a “methodological eclecticism” which sees the methods as equal but suitable for different purposes, can lead us to ignore some of the philosophical and theoretical issues which are nevertheless relevant to discussions of method.

There have been few books that attempt to bridge the gulf between the newer qualitative methods and the older, but still dominant, quantitative methods used in psychology and the social sciences. In this volume, we explore some of the issues around the qualitative-quantitative divide in psychology, looking at both the theoretical and practical considerations of a mixed-method approach.

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