Mixed methods research and deweyan pragmatism reconsidered

Gert Biesta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

In discussions about mixed methods research, it has often been suggested that pragmatism provides the most suitable philosophical paradigm for such research. Sometimes this is argued, because mixed methods research takes a pragmatic rather than principled approach to the question of methods. While such a pragmatic stance has been helpful in overcoming the strong opposition between ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ approaches, I argue in this chapter that this does not imply that pragmatism provides the philosophical foundation for mixed methods research. One reason for this has to do with the complexities of what is actually being mixed in mixed methods research. Here I suggest that the most important question is not about data or methods but whether research aims to generate causal explanation or interpretative understanding of social phenomena. Through a detailed reconstruction of John Dewey’s ideas about knowledge and coming to know, I show that Dewey’s ideas are unable to provide a philosophical foundation for mixed methods research. Where Dewey’s work is helpful, however, is in highlighting that all research, irrespective of its ambitions, data, or methods, is a truly human endeavour, and therefore can only provide us with an insight in possibilities but never with absolute certainty.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophical Foundations of Mixed Methods Research
Subtitle of host publicationDialogues between Researchers and Philosophers
EditorsYafeng Shan
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781003806042
ISBN (Print)9781003273288, 9781032226118
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2023


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