JMMR-Communitiesofpractice[1].doc

JMMR-Communitiesofpractice[1].doc - Communities of practice...

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Communities of practice: a research paradigm for the Mixed Methods approach. Martyn Denscombe Department of Public Policy De Montfort University The Gateway Leicester LE1 9BH England Phone: +44 (0)116 2078785 Email: [email protected] 0
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Abstract The Mixed Methods approach has emerged as a ‘third paradigm’ for social research. It has developed a platform of ideas and practices that are credible and distinctive, and which mark the approach out as a viable alternative to quantitative and qualitative paradigms. However, there are also a number of variations and inconsistencies within the Mixed Methods approach which should not be ignored. This paper argues the need for a vision of research paradigm which accommodates such variations and inconsistencies. It is argued that the use of ‘communities of practice’ as the basis for such a research paradigm is i) consistent with the pragmatist underpinnings of the Mixed Methods approach, ii) accommodates a level of diversity and iii) has good potential for understanding the methodological choices made by those conducting mixed methods research. Keywords Communities of practice, mixed methods, pragmatism, research paradigm 1
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Introduction Mixed methods research has developed rapidly in recent years. Championed by writers such as John Creswell, Abbas Tashakkori, Burke Johnson, Anthony Onwuegbuzie, Jennifer Greene, Charles Teddlie and David Morgan, the ‘Mixed Methods approach’ has emerged in the last decade as a research movement with a recognised name and distinct identity. It has evolved to the point where it is ‘increasingly articulated, attached to research practice, and recognized as the third major research approach or research paradigm ’ (Johnson et al., 2007, p.112). As a research paradigm, the Mixed Methods approach incorporates a distinct set of ideas and practices that separate the approach from the other main research paradigms. These are outlined briefly in this paper. However, there are also aspects of mixed methods research on which there is a relative lack of consistency or agreement. These, too, are sketched out in this paper. It should be emphasized, though, that the purpose for doing so is not to undermine the status of the Mixed Methods approach as a paradigm for research. Other research paradigms, subjected to detailed examination, will exhibit their own variations and inconsistencies and there should be no suggestion that just because the Mixed Methods approach does not achieve complete coherence and consistency that it is automatically disqualified from the status of a research paradigm. The purpose, instead, is to draw attention to the way in which the notion of ‘research paradigm’ might need to accommodate a level of variation and inconsistency in its ideas and practices – treating them not as some kind of aberration or short-term problem that needs to 2
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be resolved, but as an ongoing and inherent feature of the paradigm itself.
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