Mixed Methods Critique

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The use of mixed methods is currently increasing in social science research since it emphasizes methodological pluralism, and provides a broader and more credible understanding of the research problem than the use of a single method (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2010). However, mixing methods for no good reason other than the sake of it can produce disjointed and unfocussed research, and can severely test the capabilities of researchers. I raise some cautionary issues in this paper by critiquing the methodology in the journal article titled “Researching men: the politics and possibilities of a qualitative mixed-methods approach” published by Meth and McClymont (2011).

Meth and McClymont (2011) explores the possibility and politics of using qualitative mixed methods approach in researching men. The methods employed in the study include focus group discussion, one-on-one interview, archival method (diary), visual methods, and evaluation interview. I deduced these methods from the data sources highlighted in the article (page 911) since the authors failed to explicitly highlight the various methods that make up their mixed methods. More importantly, I discuss a number of problems associated with their methodological choices.

First, the authors were not clear in revealing the purpose and focus of the paper. Researchers engaging in mixed methods research need to have a clear sense of the logic and purpose of their approach. A clear focus ultimately underpins a practical strategy not only for choosing and deploying a particular mix of methods, but also for linking their data analytically (Mason, 2006). Were the authors interested in revealing the possibility of researching men using mixed methods (page 910)? Or were they actually developing a mixed method framework for researching men (page 910)? Or were they exploring the various ways in which men are subjected to violence (page 911)? Inexplicit research focus complicates methodological issues since ‘mixed methods’ is in itself a complex method. As a consequence, I found it difficult to identify and integrate the various methods and their justification to understand the entire paper.

To expand on the methodological complications inherent in the paper, the authors confuse mixed methods with repeat research. For instance, in explaining why they were able to get a research participant to reveal sensitive information, Meth and McClymont (2011) wrote: This transformation of disclosure illustrate the intrinsic value of repeat research and the varying benefits (and limitation) of each method, with each offering a particular space for knowledge production to take place (page 917) Deducing from the quote, repeat research is used in place of mixed methods. However, there is a distinction between repeat research and mixed methods. Repeat research is an ambiguous term. It may refer to the use of a single research method repeatedly, perhaps at different places or even the same place. It may also refer to triangulation of methods, which involves the use of more than one method to address a single research question (Spicer cited in Seale, 2012). There is little room for ambiguity when using mixed method because the method is in itself complex.

Questions of methodological rigor arise in the paper. The authors did not actually describe the specific methods that make up their mixed methods research. They clearly described what ‘mixed methods’ are in the context of their research (page 911) but failed to describe the focus group discussion, interviews, visual methods and documentary evidence they used. Meth and McClymont (2011) assume that by using these methods in their research, readers will grasp what they really are. However, in methodological approaches, there is a big difference between describing what methods a researcher chooses to use, and explaining how the chosen methods are used. Also, researchers are obliged to justify their choices of methods. The justification for mixed...
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