By Sofiya Voytiv
Mixed methods research has boomed in recent decades despite a relatively constant presence of different qualitative and quantitative methods in social research before (Creswell, 2015; Greene 2008; Archibald et al., 2017). However, the field of mixed methods research has a relatively short history in terms of establishment, and thus a lot of discussions have focused on the definitions of the methods as qualitative vs quantitative, language used while mixing, assumptions and coherency within different methodological paradigms and design issues (Creswell, 2015). Meanwhile the paradigm “wars” between quantitative and qualitative methods researchers are unfortunately still very much ongoing.
Often the argument is that these sets of methods have different assumptions about the nature of truth and thus cannot be mixed or anyhow integrated (Small, 2011; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). However, these arguments unfortunately do not take into account the similarities that both paradigms share: they both “describe their data, construct explanatory arguments from their data, and speculate about why the outcomes they observed happened as they did” (Sechrest & Sidani, p.78 in Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004, p.15). To move forward from these discussions mixed methods research should rather be viewed as a method approach, i.e. more than just a set of separate and independent qualitative and quantitative data, – a link, connection between the two strands (Cresswell, 2015, p.8).
In diaspora studies qualitative methods seem to be a “preferred” methodological toolkit. In their book on the methodological tools for diaspora studies Amelina and Barglowski (2018), for example, state that their “… discussion focuses on qualitative methods, for the lower degree of pre-structuring they involve makes them the most suitable methods for approaching the complexity of diasporic life” (p.34). While true to a large extent, in this blog post I want to argue that certain tools that a quantitative perspective offers can be extremely relevant for researching diasporic communities, individuals, and experiences. This is especially so when studies lie within the intersection of diaspora and war in the “homeland”.
Diaspora studies with mixed methods research design
According to the scientific database Web of Science there have been only 33 published articles that mention both diaspora and mixed methods (see the figure with plotted distribution of these by discipline). This quick search of course misses a lot more unpublished or published elsewhere texts that are employing mixed methods design, but it can at least serve as a proxy for the little extent of usage of mixed methods in diaspora studies. This came to me as a surprise.
Web of Science, search by keywords “Diaspora AND Mixed Methods”, August 2020
In my own research on Ukrainian and Russian diasporas in Sweden and war in eastern Ukraine the benefits of using mixed methods approach resonated a lot with me. I was interested in investigating the ways emotions, experiences, relationships, and group boundaries are constructed, narrated, and understood by diasporic individuals and communities during the conflict in their “homeland”. While asking about participants’ emotions and perceptions at the onset of the Revolution and subsequent armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, it seemed that the past personal experiences of the participants were strongly mediated by the current at the time political situation in Ukraine. While not a shocking aspect of a retrospective interview per se (see for example Zilber, Tuval‐Mashiach, and Lieblich, 2008), it made me realize that using multiple methods could be beneficial in understanding how exactly the past relationships changed and unraveled in great detail and precision, even several years ago.
By using social network analysis, I backtracked all the instances of cooperation between different Ukrainian and Russian diasporic organizations in Sweden during the Maidan Revolution, annexation of Crimea, and subsequent war in the east of Ukraine. I calculated the chances that certain types of organizations would cooperate with each other in a certain year using such parameters as shared attitude towards the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, shared ethnic self-identification, size of organization and others, – all while accounting for the fact that these cooperation instances are dependent on each other. In addition, I also did interviews with diasporic individuals who were in some cases also members of these diasporic organizations. Using these multiple methods helped me to understand structural and war-related patterns of politicization of organizational field, as well as polarization in the temporal dimension on both micro and organizational levels.
This is just one, and very far from perfect, example of how using a mixed methods approach can be helpful in research on diaspora and wars. Many more topics and foci of research in diaspora and conflict transportation studies can benefit from such an approach. First, there are many benefits in mixing computational social science and traditional qualitative approach, e.g. text and sentiment analysis of large archives of documents as well as solidarities, mobilizations and collective diasporic action through the social media online. Secondly, complementing social network analysis and interviews or observations can be of great use when studying patterns of change in time, e.g. politicization of organizations or patterns of peer influence both from the “homeland” and country of residence in time. Third, mixed methods approach rationale is to develop more refined and effective conclusions as well as challenge and uncover possible biases in results given by one method separately, something that is also beneficial for many other disciplines.
Lastly, in my opinion we should consider using multiple methods and mixed research design not only for the benefits such triangulation can bring in terms of limiting biases and challenging results, but also in the pragmatic sense of answering a question with the method that fits and not vice versa, for it should not be our methodological belonging “camp” that dictates what questions we ask. Finally, in the realities of Covid-19 pandemic that have significantly limited our work “in the field”, being able to mix different methodologies is yet another advantage worth considering.
Amelina, Anna, and Karolina Barglowski. 2018. Key Methodological Tools for Diaspora Studies. Routledge Handbooks Online. https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9781315209050-4 (August 13, 2020).
Archibald, Mandy M.; Radil, A. I., Zhang,X., and William E. Hanson. 2017. ‘Current Mixed Methods Practices in Qualitative Research: A Content Analysis of Leading Journals’. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 14(2): 5–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940691501400205
Creswell, John W. 2010. ‘Mapping the Developing Landscape of Mixed Methods Research’. In SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California 91320 United States: SAGE Publications, Inc., 45–68. http://methods.sagepub.com/book/sage-handbook-of-mixed-methods-social-behavioral-research-2e/n2.xml (April 4, 2019).
Greene, Jennifer C. 2008. ‘Is Mixed Methods Social Inquiry a Distinctive Methodology?’: Journal of Mixed Methods Research. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1558689807309969 (August 19, 2020).
Johnson, R. B. and Onwuegbuzie, A. J. 2004. ‘Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come’, Educational Researcher, 33(7), pp. 14–26. doi: 10.3102/0013189X033007014.
Zilber, T.B., Tuval‐Mashiach, R. and Lieblich, A. 2008. ‘The embedded narrative, navigating through multiple contexts’. Qualitative inquiry, 14(6): 1047–1069.