Mixed Methods and Their Pragmatic Approach: Is There a Risk of Being Entangled in a Positivist Epistemology and Methodology? Limits, Pitfalls and Consequences of a Bricolage Methodology

  • Giampietro Gobo Università degli Studi di Milano
Keywords: mixed methods, measurement, bricolage methodology, pragmatic approach, third paradigm, merged methods


Since the early 2000s, the pragmatic approach has been proposed as a philosophical program for social research, regardless of whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods are used. In addition, current mixed methods have been presented as a third way between positivism and constructivism. However, can mixed methods be fully considered a third way? For instance, in their inquiries, will scholars oriented to pragmatism actually employ the traditional and standardized questionnaire, with forced choices and closed questions, which strongly limits any interpretative and interactional perspective? Hence, several theoretical and methodological difficulties of the pragmatist proposal emerge precisely (and paradoxically) at the level of research practice. The pragmatic approach is presented by its proponents as a model designed to dissolve differences and neutralize epistemological barriers; however, without problematizing and removing the positivist features of their methods, researchers oriented to pragmatism actually risk ending up reproducing positivism in disguise. Hence, despite their claims to innovation, proponents of pragmatism are often overly traditionalist in their use of methods.


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Author Biography

Giampietro Gobo, Università degli Studi di Milano

Giampietro GOBO, professor of methodology of social research and sociology of science at the University of Milan (Italy), was one of the founders of the Qualitative Methods Research Network of the European Sociological Association. He is interested in scientific controversies on health issues and coordination studies. He is currently conducting projects on immunization and Covid-19 policies, and ethnographic experiments in the area of cooperation in small teams. His books include "Doing Ethnography" (Sage, 2008), "Qualitative Research Practice" (co-edited with C. SEALE, J.F. GUBRIUM & D. SILVERMAN; Sage, 2004), "Constructing Survey Data: An Interactional Approach" (with S. MAUCERI, Sage, 2014), "Merged Methods: A Rationale for Full Integration" (with N. FIELDING, G. La ROCCA & W. van der VAART; Sage, 2022) and "Science, Technology and Society: An Introduction" (with V. MARCHESELLI; Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).


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How to Cite
Gobo, G. (2023). Mixed Methods and Their Pragmatic Approach: Is There a Risk of Being Entangled in a Positivist Epistemology and Methodology? Limits, Pitfalls and Consequences of a Bricolage Methodology. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 24(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-24.1.4005
Methodological, Philosophical and Sociology of Science Perspectives