Paradigms, pragmatism and possibilities: mixed-methods research in speech and language therapy.
Background: After the decades of the so-called 'paradigm wars' in social science research methodology and the controversy about the relative place and value of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, 'paradigm peace' appears to have now been declared. This has come about as many researchers have begun to take a 'pragmatic' approach in the selection of research methodology, choosing the methodology best suited to answering the research question rather than conforming to a methodological orthodoxy. With the differences in the philosophical underpinnings of the two traditions set to one side, an increasing awareness, and valuing, of the 'mixed-methods' approach to research is now present in the fields of social, educational and health research. Aims: To explore what is meant by mixed-methods research and the ways in which quantitative and qualitative methodologies and methods can be combined and integrated, particularly in the broad field of health services research and the narrower one of speech and language therapy. Main contribution: The paper discusses the ways in which methodological approaches have already been combined and integrated in health services research and speech and language therapy, highlighting the suitability of mixed-methods research for answering the typically multifaceted questions arising from the provision of complex interventions. The challenges of combining and integrating quantitative and qualitative methods and the barriers to the adoption of mixed-methods approaches are also considered. Conclusions & Implications: The questions about healthcare, as it is being provided in the 21st century, calls for a range of methodological approaches. This is particularly the case for human communication and its disorders, where mixed-methods research offers a wealth of possibilities. In turn, speech and language therapy research should be able to contribute substantively to the future development of mixed-methods research.