Compatibility and Complementarity: Using multiple methodologies

Year: 2012

Author: Patterson, Carmel, Peter, Sandra

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Increasingly researchers in the social sciences and humanities employ more than one methodological framework. They do this because they are adding significant research questions which cannot be answered through single methodological frameworks.  While this has the advantage of pairing multiple lenses for analysis, it also provides challenges in aligning the methodologies conceptually and practically. In this paper we look at autoethnography and institutional ethnography on the one hand and narrative inquiry and phenomenology on the other. Working from these two examples, we discuss the range of implications that span the ontological, epistemological and theoretical perspectives that inform inquiry. First in the context of autoethnography and institutional ethnography the paper identifies three tensions in how to address a problematic in a coherent, consistent manner, how to generate and analyse data, and how to judge to quality of the research. These tensions allow discussion on: what is the status of the data and what is a legitimate form of interrogation; how is it meant to inform theory and what is its relationship to theory. The second example looks at narrative inquiry and phenomenological inquiry. This example draws on the ontological underpinnings of hermeneutics to addresses the complexity in understanding the context of unique human experiences while also traversing the existential meaning across these experiences. These complexities allow discussion on how these two hermeneutic understandings provide significant representations of meaning.We conclude with a discussion of the critical moments, lines of fault and points of intersection identified in the two examples of combinations of multiple lenses: on the one hand complementing on the other contrasting. We unpack how a clarity regarding their respective epistemological and theoretical positions is necessary. This informs the status of the data and how data is handled, as well as how it informs, draws and builds on theory. We then discuss the contexts and limitations for using multiple methodologies. We wish to provide an avenue for researchers to fully engage in discussions of ontology, epistemology and theoretical perspective when using multiple methodologies in their research studies.