A 2-day workshop will take place on February 9-10, 2015 at Bielefeld University. Alongside with researchers in Germany, NCCR LIVES deputy director Laura Bernardi is part of the organisers. She’s also one of the authors of a chapter on mixed methods in an edited book recently published by Cambridge University Press.
“Good mixed methods research is based on knowledge about the two methodological approaches and about the methodological, theoretical, and analytic challenges specific to integrating various logical approaches to research”: the workshop Beyond methodological dualism: Combining qualitative and quantitative data organised at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZIF) of Bielefeld University next February promises to explore the potential of mixing methods on the basis of concrete studies in the fields of labour market, social inequality, family, and migration. Supported by the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), and the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research LIVES, it will combine plenary lectures with methodological and thematic workshops.
Prof. Laura Bernardi, NCCR LIVES deputy director, proposes a session on family. She has extensive experience in mixed methods, which she now applies to her research on lone parents in Switzerland. When working at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany (2003-2009), she researched the influence of social networks on individuals’ fertility choices using mixed methods.
This research1 questioned partners in couples born in East and West Germany who had graduated from school in the early nineties. It is summarised in a chapter of the book Mixed Methods Social Networks Research, Design and Applications released recently with Cambridge University Press. This paper shows how the qualitative approach enriches the quantitative data, which alone could not describe aspects like individual perceptions, experiences, family organisation as well as social mechanisms of support, learning, pressure and contagion at play in childbearing decisions.
Nevertheless the quantitative approach helped build a typology of networks and brought a structural perspective. The authors underline the challenge of overcoming epistemological arguments that often oppose qualitative and quantitative researchers. “The process of negotiating these interests to find a good solution for designing the mixed method study should not be underestimated”, they warn. At the same time, they advocate for the “unique strengths” of mixed methods, which make the challenge worthwhile.
Within the NCCR LIVES, several projects use mixed methods on topics like family, migration, work and ageing. Some of LIVES researchers will speak about their experience at the Bielefeld workshop: Emanuela Struffolino with Transition to lone parenthood and employment trajectories: a mixed methods approach, Andrés Gomensoro with Educational pathways of the children of migrants between trajectories and narrations, and Marthe Nicolet with When the family of the deceased says ‘thank you’: Quantitative and content analysis of death notices in Wallis (Switzerland).
- 1. Bernardi, L., Keim, S., Klärner, A. (2014). Social Networks, Social Influence, and Fertility in Germany: Challenges and Benefits of Applying a Parallel Mixed Methods Design. In Dominguez, S. & Hollstein, B., Mixed Methods Social Networks Research. Design and Applications (p. 121-152). Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press.