OSS9096 – Mixed and Merged Methods: Toward a Methodological Pluralism

Course description

Course content

From the 1990s Mixed Methods Research (the integration of “qualitative and quantitative approaches or methods in a single study or a program of inquiry” - Tashakkori and Creswell 2007: 4) is a well-known and established field but it also remains a hot topic in contemporary social science. However, it is not a novelty in the methodological landscape.

Historically, since the making of social research and until the late 1930s, mixed methods were a common practice for almost one century: Frédéric Le Play (1840s), Eilert Sundt (1850s), Charles Booth (1886), B. Seebohm Rowntree (1899), Max Weber (1907), the Chicago School (1920s), Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Marie Jahoda and Hans Zeisel, Rensis Likert, Helen Merrel and Robert S. Lynd (1930s) used mixed methods.

After disappearing for forty years, mixed methods had their renaissance in the 1990s. However, their second wave is rooted in important experiences and practices of the past, without which the philosophy and epistemological foundations of contemporary mixed methods research cannot be fully understood.

The course will give an overview about current debates and the key issues in the field. Firstly, an alternative classification (of the main methodologies currently used in social sciences) will be proposed, aiming to overcome the outdated dichotomy qualitative-quantitative. Then, the conventional quantitative language of social research (shaped by terms such as 'measurement', 'hypothesis', ‘indicators’, ‘variable', ‘sampling’, ‘generalization’, ‘validitiy’ and so on) will be revisited in the light of a new epistemological framework, adding new meanings/concepts (to these positivistic terms) compatible also with qualitative approaches (Gobo 2018). Because the re-joining of qualitative and quantitative approaches in a new methodological ground [which it has been called “third paradigm” (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998, Greene and Caracelli 2003, Morgan 2007, Creswell and Plano Clark 2011)] can be achieved only by merging some languages, procedures, codes and mindsets of these two paradigms. Not simply mixing or juxtaposing methods (as suggested by the naïve pragmatism waved by many scholars). The latter can only unavoidably lead to an ‘epistemological jam’ and to a naïve ‘methodological bricolage’. According to Greene (2007) and also Maxwell’s spirit: “the main value of mixed method research, as Greene (2007) argued, is in creating a dialogue between different ways of seeing, interpreting, and knowing, not simply in combining different methods and types of data” (2010: 478).

Course participants will acquire skills and competencies in order to design a fully mixed methods study and develop an appropriate strategy to answer specific research questions. In this regard, some little-known techniques (“inter-vey”, calendar interviewing, Delphi method, mystery shopper), classified as “merged methods” (Gobo 2015), will be showed. They are particularly interesting because could represent an overpassing of the qualitative and quantitative divide, by the fact they embody in one single method the advantages of either approaches or methods (Gobo 2016).

Finally, it will be argued how mixed methods are useful for decolonizing contemporary methodology and why they are particularly suitable for studying multicultural societies.

During the course, participants (if they wish) will have the chance to share own ideas and plans regarding a mixed methods design (e.g. a PhD project, a fieldwork problem and so on) and receive comments, suggestions and advice emerging from the collective debate.

Teaching

Students have two options in terms of submitting a research design/paper in order to receive ECTS credits:

  1. In particular, students have the option of presenting a 2.500 word research project in the concluding Friday session of the course week for constructive critiques by course participants as well as the lecturer. Presumably, students will choose to present the research design for their PhD thesis, though students could also present a research design for a separate project, article, or edited volume. Research designs should be crafted according to the guidelines offered, in advance and in a separate e-mail sent to you, by the lecturer or summer school administration.
  2. It is also possible to earn a course certificate together with 8 ECTS credits points for a PhD program by submitting a short essay (3.000 – 4.000 words) within two months after the course.

Specific requirements

Since the focus of the course is not on qualitative and quantitative methods itself, it is expected that course participants have at least basic knowledge about qualitative and quantitative research methods.

The lecturer

Dr. Giampietro Gobo is Professor of Social Research Methods and Evaluation Methods at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Milano. He holds a Master in Sociology (Master) and a Ph.D in Methodology and Social Research. For many years, he served as Director of the centre ICONA (Innovation and Organizational Change in the Public Administration) at the University of Milan. He has taught Research Methods, Evaluation research, Epistemology, Social Studies of Science, Ethnography and Applied Ethnography on the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate level at various universities in Italy, Germany, Norway, Spain and US.

Areas of specialization: Epistemology, Sociology of Science, Qualitative methods, Quantitative methods, Marketing research, Organization studies, Workplace studies.

Facts about this course

Credits

8

Level

PhD

Teaching

Every summer

Teaching language

English