Combining Methods in Educational and Social Research

Combining Methods in Educational and Social Research

Combining Methods in Educational and Social Research

Combining Methods in Educational and Social Research


This excellent book promises much and delivers a whole lot more. It provides a description of the practicalities of combining evidence from a variety of data collection modes in order to enrich our responses to educational research questions. This is achieved with thoroughness and clarity and even some wit. There are outstanding teaching materials here. This is the best book on educational research methods published in this country for decades.
Professor Charles Desforges, University of Exeter

"In this timely and important contribution, Stephen Gorard and Chris Taylor help us move beyond the wasteful schism of 'qualitative versus quantitative' research by offering sound basic theorising and extensive practical illustration of the combining of research methods... I see their book as essential reading for anyone concerned for effective educational and social research."
Professor Peter Tomlinson, University of Leeds

There is growing interest in the possibilities of combining research approaches in education and social sciences, as dissatisfaction mounts with the limitations of traditional mono-method studies and with the schism between quantitative and qualitative methods.

This book argues the case for combining multiple research methods, and provides much-needed practical guidance for researchers who want to use this mixed-methods approach. The authors believe that all research has an over-arching logic and that, within this, the fruitful combination of quantitative and qualitative methods is possible. They develop the idea of the 'new' education and social researcher, for whom the combination of approaches is a representation of a diverse skills base, rather than a matter of ideological or theoretical allegiance. The book outlines and evaluates methods that are currently used, and looks at combining different methods across and within studies, including complex interventions, Bayesian approaches, new political arithmetic, triangulation, life histories and design studies. It offers a radical, new and very simple way of working with numbers.

Drawing on examples across the social sciences, this book is key reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Education and social science courses with a research element, as well as academics and professionals undertaking research projects.


Why have we written a book about combining research approaches in education and social science at this time? Because there is growing interest in the possibilities, as dissatisfaction grows with the limitations of traditional mono-method studies — all very well in their way but unable to address fully the most complex research questions — and with the methodological schism and internecine 'warfare' that divides our field. This interest is clear among the funders of research. It is exemplified by two projects funded in 2002/3 as part of the ESRC Research Methods Programme, both of which are devoted to exploring issues of combining methods — specifically those methods traditionally termed 'qualitative' and 'quantitative'. For more information on these, see www.prw.le. bryman.shtml.

The new training guidelines for ESRC-funded research students (1 + 3) require for the first time that all students are able to undertake relatively high-level tasks within both traditions of research. The combination of such methods is also one of five particular priorities for the ESRC-funded Teaching and Learning Research Programme Capacity Building Network (see

However, there are very few sources that the interested researcher can turn to for practical guidance on the conduct of research that employs multiple mixed methods. This book provides a conceptual and methodological guide to mixing or combining methods in education research (and in social science more widely), by situating, outlining and evaluating methods that are currently used both within and beyond these fields. The book is not easy reading, will not be comfortable for some existing researchers, and certainly cannot be expected to overcome the convictions of those researchers who are avowedly mono-methodic. But perhaps we should not expect anyone who believes that it is impossible . . .

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