Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sharlene Hesse-Biber Does It Again! The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research

I consider Sharlene Hesse-Biber to be the absolute queen of handbooks about qualitative research (and related subjects).  When some people get to the "handbook stage" of their career, the reading gets dull.  But this is not the case with Dr. Hesse-Biber.  Recently I found myself sitting at a desk with multiple handbooks assembled by Hesse-Biber...and they were all good and worthwhile!  Her latest volume is not a disappointment. 

I selected a couple of articles from it for my "Advanced Topics in Qualitative Research" course for this fall.  I wanted to provide students with cutting edge topics in qualitative research, and mixed methods definitely counts as one of those.  The two we reviewed were:

"Introduction: Navigating a Turbulent Research Landscape: Working the Boundaries, Tensions, Diversity, and Contradictions of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Inquiry" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber


"A Qualitatively Driven Approach to Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research" by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Deborah Rodriguez, and Nollaig Frost. 

I was particularly pleased to see interdisciplinary and team research issues discussed at length in Hesse-Biber's introduction.  This emphasis is contrary to what one sees in the majority of textbooks on qualitative research up to now, which describe research methodology as primarily an act performed by individuals.   The inclusion of these issues here illustrates the way Hesse-Biber stays current with developments in research. 

She does not shy away from the difficulties present in trying to mix methodological approaches. 
Important in fostering a robust mixed methods analytical and interpretative process as well is the development of a profound appreciation for the potential contributions a given methodological perspective can bring to a mixed methods project. (xli)
Border tensions thread throughout the Introduction from the qual/quant divide to disciplinary differences to the colonial divide of the global North and South, to technology divides.  Not surprisingly Hesse-Biber is also the editor of the excellent "Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research."  She speaks with authority when she says:
The MMMR community is witnessing a shift from a 'one data set' study structure toward multiple data sets aggregated from a range of structure levels (micro/meso/macro/emanating from a variety of sources (online/offline/mobile/hybrid). (xliv)
 The notion of multiple data sets and structure levels was part of the class conversation about the second article as we considered the different models the authors offered of qualitative driven research that was also mixed method and/or multi-level.  My students grappled with the idea of a qualitative research study with multiple levels of qualitative research data--what that might look like, why you might do it, what the pitfalls could be, and how you would manage it. 

In thinking about these issues, the case studies included were invaluable.  There are three.  The first about rape culture.  The second about enhancing the validity of clinical trials with Asian-American patients.  The third case study took up gender inequality in the workplace. 

Throughout the chapter, the authors used simple visuals (squares inside of or relationship to other squares)--so simple, but very effective. 

I appreciated the caveats or cautions the authors offered.  Here is one that stood out:
In addition, pursuing a qualitatively driven MMMR design also requires new research skills and resources, and here it behooves researchers to being to question the extent to which they may need to retool their research skills or approach their project with a team of differently skilled researchers (18) [the emphasis is the authors]
 I can't wait to see how the concerns we encountered in the discussion of these articles translate into the future dissertations that will come out of this group. 

The full reference is:

Hesse-Biber, S. & Burke Johnson, R. (Eds.) (2015).  The Oxford Handbook of Multimethod and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry.  Oxford University Press. 

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