Sceptical or clerical? Theory as a barrier to the combination of research methods

Authors

  • Stephen Gorard

Abstract

There is considerable and growing interest among social scientists and funders in the potential of research that mixes the approaches usually termed ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’. One of the obstacles to further exploration of that potential is the frequently cited notion that these approaches represent more than methods – they are incommensurable ‘paradigms’. This paper discusses some of the reasons why these purported paradigms are not as much of an obstacle to mixed methods work as is sometimes portrayed. In doing so it touches on the nature of social scientific progress, and the role of different kinds of theory in that progress. The paper concludes that, as currently conceived, much theory writing is worse than useless. It is, like the notion of qualitative and quantitative paradigms, an obstacle to the development of theoretically appropriate mixed methods work.

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Published

2009-06-26

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Section

Articles