In theory, I believe in mixed methods research. I say “in theory” only because there is a set of skills and knowledge you need to include quantitative, numerical analysis that usually you mean when you say “mixed methods,” and that is a set of skills and knowledge that I sorely lack. As a researcher, that’s okay, because I know enough to read, evaluate, and make use of others’ quantitative analyses, and then my part of the work is to offer the complementary qualitative analyses that speak to what those numbers say.
But in daily life, being a “mixed methods” person means that I am learning when to attend to the “qualitative” aspects and when to attend to the “quantitative” aspects. They’re analytically distinct, meaning they’re two different ways of looking at things that can often seem to contradict each other. But in reality, in God’s eyes, so to speak, the separation is not so stark. What things look like from the scales of measurement with sufficient quantities of data might provide a different picture from what they look like from the description and interpretation of details and up-close units of analysis. But both become necessary in ways of living.
I was listening to a basketball podcast interview with Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean talk about how he and his coaches work with players. The players he recruits and prepares for the League, he says, are not just the ones who are willing to spend time in the gym or to put in the work— in my words, not just the quantity of will. He also looks for those willing to get into the details, to pay attention to doing the little things right, to get better at the fundamentals that ultimately have a greater impact multiplied over practice time— in my words, the quality of skill. (I’m paraphrasing and adding in a lot— this is my version of what he said in my head, which is definitely riddled with inaccuracies!)
But of course, everyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell knows it takes 10,000 hours to become awesome at something, like the Beatles, right? That’s scientifically proven! Malcolm Gladwell said it!
Truth is, though I’m a qualitative researcher, I tend to act most of the time as if volume is what matters. Say more words and you’ll cover all your bases. Show your devotion by promising and racking up more hours. Cherish the experience of the buffet, and eat more, regardless of the subtleties of flavor, because the feeling of inundating yourself with food all at once will secure you from all future hunger.
Mixed methods research is really rich research, but it requires attending to a lot of particulars and articulating a lot of relationships that can’t be taken for granted. How will one kind of analysis speak to another kind of analysis, what propositions or narratives will the data test or examine and how will they go together. At its best, it’s a John Williams score over a good Spielberg movie. Poorly planned, it’s trying to listen to Macklemore while watching Survivor at the same time.
Mixed methods living: a similar challenge. Can I pay more attention to the quality of my time spent with my daughter than sheer quantity? And yet not take myself off the hook for just plain ol’ carrying my share of the load of responsibility, the gigantic mountain of attention she needs and deserves? Can I do the same with my writing, research, or teaching, all of which are vocations that show pretty clearly when someone is taking shortcuts, which require lots of time in the gym, but also thoughtfulness and selectivity?
I have to. There’s no other way to responsibly face the variety of callings in my life than to be responsible for how I live as well as how much I live into it.