I’d like to add a couple of comments about what appears to be the description of qualitative methods using the rhetoric of quantitative research. In doing so I hope to address Medhi and Clive’s recent comments in that order. Please excuse any rants on my part…
While I agree that quantitative studies are theory-driven, to describe all qualitative approaches as data-driven or, worse still, in terms of grounded theory analysis does a disservice to ourselves and our students. I would ask people to harken back to the days of Walter Wallace’s The Logic of Science in Sociology (1971) and look at qualitative as theory building rather than merely data-driven which presents the impression of qualitative methodology being atheoretical while quantitative approaches are scientific since they test and or verify (validate?) a theory.
As qualitative methodologists, we typically use theory to either craft the questions that we ask our participants and/or in analyzing the responses they provide us. This is based on both the empirical and theoretical literatures rather than a simple subjective analysis.
In terms of the two theses mentioned, I would agree that the students would be better served to describe their approaches as theory driven analyses of the data. Without harping on the strengths of Jennifer Atride-Stirling’s (2001 work:
Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks – an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 1(3): 385-405.
she provides a much simpler method of of both data gathering and analysis than grounded theory with the ability to provide wider resonance of the finding rather than a localized application of ‘small t’ theory.
As for the ‘mixed’ methods approach, I can’t comment here without seeing exactly how these students described their respective approaches. I agree with Clive that if the students are mixing two background drive theories they need to acknowledge it in their analyses.
However, I’m getting frustrated with my quantitative colleagues both here and abroad who teach research methods with the obligatory one class on qualitative methods and have created the impressions among students that including an open-ended question in a survey questionnaire creates a mixed methods study!!!! A mixed methods approach is effectively two methods applied sequentially within the same study; such a study might employ a survey questionnaire (to determine the extent of the phenomena) followed by a semi-structured interviews (to discover the deeper meaning of it or the perceptions of participants) that were informed by the results of the former or vice versa.
Let’s see… push the ‘end rant’ button next to the ‘any key’ button on the keyboard and send!