Critical realism and realist pragmatism in mixed methods: Problematics of event identity and abductive inference (evolving paradigms in mixed methods research) - Paper kindly presented on Dr Lipscomb's behalf.
American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, 2011, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 8th - 12th April, 2011.
Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/14188
Publisher's URL: http://www.aera.net/2011AnnualMeeting.htm
Whilst mixed method research is not universally accepted as an appropriate research choice (and in certain situations it is, self evidently, an inappropriate choice), mixed inquiry is now widely embedded in and accepted by many disciplines. Indeed, it might be argued that debates regarding the legitimacy or otherwise of mixed method research have, in some if not all cases, been superseded by detailed discussion about quality or the specific mechanisms by which mixing can best be achieved. Assuming that the ‘paradigm wars’ are, if not ended, then certainly in armistice, controversy nonetheless remains regarding the relationships that exist, if they do, between methods and the research traditions with which they are associated. And mixed method researchers who attempt to elide or conjoin methods (as tools) that invoke or are coupled with divergent epistemologies and ontologies must continue to grapple with questions of argumentative coherence when those epistemologies/ontologies are brought together. Pragmatism is, unsurprisingly, advanced as one means by which the Gordian knot of theoretical dispute can be cut and critical realists have, in recent years, also asserted that as both a philosophy of science and methodology critical realism can coordinate or structure mixed method inquiry. Both approaches promise much. However, there are different pragmatisms and different critical realisms and here, as elsewhere, conceptual clarity is required if muddle is to be avoided. This paper outlines the potential role and place of Roy Bhaskar’s (2003, 1998, 1997) critical realism and Nicholas Rescher’s (2002, 2000a, 2000b) realistic pragmatism in mixed method research. Further, focusing on the problematics of event identity and abductive inference, possible limits to the use of these approaches in mixed method research are suggested. Specifically, first, it is argued that difficulties can accompany the mixing of different conceptions of events and event identities when critical realist and non-critical realist perspectives are conjoined; second, it is proposed that kindred problems may accompany the mixing of abductive critical realism with the inductive and deductive inferential forms of alternative research traditions/philosophies. It is not argued that these problems are insurmountable; indeed, they may, depending on definition, not be problems at all. Nonetheless, it is proposed that mixed method researchers who employ critical realist methodologies and/or realist pragmatism should be cognizant of the potential difficulties that invest event identity and abductive inference in order that they can protect the logical coherence of their work.
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