Misappropriation and mixed-methods research

The other night I was reminded of the idea of cultural misappropriation – as a Unitarian Universalist (a faith that draws upon all world religions), we are particularly aware of the issue of cultural misappropriation, that is, using the symbols or practices of other faiths in a context that does not respect the spirit of the faith it is being taken from.

So, what does that have to do with research?  I see a parallel between Unitarian Universalism and mixed-methods research, and the concerns of cultural misappropriation align with concerns of researchers who are firmly positioned in a non-pragmatic paradigm.

Now, I should also make a note on the philosophical difference between mixed-methods, constructivist (qualitative) and post-positivist (quantitative) research paradigms. They each have fundamentally different purposes. Mixed-methods researchers seek to find solutions to real-world problems – they focus on “what works”. Constructivists seek to better understand the world, through close examination using various lenses (e.g. feminist, critical theories), and post-positivists seek to find generalizable “truths”. The fundamentals goals of each of these research paradigms is different, and therefore, the ways in which information is collected and analyzed is fundamentally different.

In Unitarian Universalism, we draw upon all world religions with a goal of finding our own personal truth. We may pick-and-choose the readings and practices of other faiths (in a respectful manner) in order to figure out “what works” for our own personal journey. In mixed-methods research, we seek to find “what works” in designing our research to answer our research question. In doing this, we pick-and-choose data collection and analysis methods to suit the specific needs of our specific research project.

A person practicing a specific religious faith may argue that the Unitarian Universalist is missing the essence of the reading or practice because they are just picking-and-choosing aspects of it, and not taking the entire faith practice in context. A researcher that firmly believes in only qualitative or quantitative methods, could argue that mixed-methods researchers pick-and-choose only aspects of the data collection and analysis methods, and therefore, are weakening the research by not using the methodologies in the manner in which they were intended.

So what can a mixed-methods researcher learn from Unitarian Universalism? It is given that mixed-methods researchers need to understand why they are using the methods they are. In order to avoid misappropriation of research methods, what they also need to understand (and articulate) is the limitations of the methods within the specific mixed-methods context – that is, what are you losing by taking the methods out of their original context.

1 Comment on Misappropriation and mixed-methods research

  1. Rebecca, may I quote from this in the March IMaUU newsletter, coming out in the next 2 or 3 days?

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