Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mixed Methods Research: A Comprehensive Approach for Study into the New Zealand Voluntary Carbon Market

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Mixed Methods Research: A Comprehensive Approach for Study into the New Zealand Voluntary Carbon Market

Article excerpt

Mixed methods research designs have been growing in popularity in the accounting literature (Brown & Brignall, 2007; Kakkuri-Knuuttila, Lukka, & Kuorikoski, 2008b; Lee, 1991; Modell, 2005, 2010; Vaivio & Siren, 2010). Accounting draws theoretical and methodological inspiration from multiple disciplines (mathematics, economics, sociology, organizational studies, behavioral science, etc.) to investigate complex organizational transactions. Brown and Brignall (2007) suggest that this multi-disciplinary characteristic makes accounting studies ideal candidates for multi-method research designs.

Following this reasoning, climate change accounting and other alternative accounting research which incorporate an additional multi-disciplinary dimension are supremely suited to the use of mixed methods. Researchers in these fields have responded accordingly: "The social and environmental and critical accounting research communities are known to embrace methodological pluralism and inter-disciplinary perspectives on accounting" (Milne & Grubnic, 2011, p. 950).

However, the use and usefulness of mixed methods has been the subject of academic debate (Ahrens, 2008; Bryman, 2007; Kakkuri-Knuuttila, Lukka, & Kuorikoski, 2008a; Parker, 2012). Primary criticisms stem from a presumed incommensurability between quantitative and qualitative approaches due to an underlying philosophical gap. Quantitative and qualitative studies are commonly equated with positivism and interpretivism respectively; these approaches are said to hold fundamentally distinct underlying assumptions and agendas. Attempting to bring together evidence from these different perspectives is thus viewed by some as an impossible pursuit (see Teddlie & Yu (2007) and Santiago-Brown, Jerram, Metcalfe, & Collins (2014) for exceptions). Academic researchers are often clustered into disparate camps and publish in separate journals promoting their preferred paradigm. Since accounting has traditionally favored quantitative positivist research, Parker (2012, p. 61) warns of the "romance of objectivising qualitative research" to validate findings. Though qualitative research can and should stand on its own merits, integrating different methods can be beneficial. As Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al. (2008b) demonstrate, in practice divergent paradigms can co-exist and co-operate; straddling the subjective/objective divide is possible.

Mixed methods can involve multiple researchers, data sets, methodologies, and/or theories. (1) The term usually implies integration of quantitative and qualitative dimensions (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, & Turner, 2007). Application of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies can yield assessable statistical results as well as in-depth contextually grounded understanding of underlying processes and relationships. The components must be mutually illuminating to ensure that "the end product is more than the sum of the individual quantitative and qualitative parts" (Bryman, 2007). Thus, integration is essential. Without it, the research design becomes simply a collection of methods that might "talk past" each other (Brown & Brignall, 2007).

In her editorial "Mixed Methods and Wicked Problems," Mertens (2015) highlights the merit of mixed methods in pursuing solutions to complex problems such as climate change. As the author explains, wicked problems like climate change "involve multiple interacting systems, are replete with social and institutional uncertainties, and for which only imperfect knowledge about their nature and solutions exist" (p. 3).

Indeed, climate change has the potential to significantly alter the world as we know it in terms of both the environment and the way in which societies operate. In response, and in a variety of ways, organisations are taking notice and taking action (e.g., Besio & Pronzini, 2014; Birchall, 2014; Galbreath, Charles, & Klass, 2014; Lee, 2012), including engaging in the voluntary carbon market (VCM). …

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