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Developing mixed methods research in sport and exercise psychology: potential contributions of a critical realist perspective

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-10-09, 13:14 authored by Tatiana V Ryba, Gareth WiltshireGareth Wiltshire, Julian North, Noora J Ronkainen
Notwithstanding diverse opinions and debates about mixing methods, mixed methods research (MMR) is increasingly being used in sport and exercise psychology. In this paper, we describe MMR trends within leading sport and exercise psychology journals and explore critical realism as a possible underpinning framework for conducting MMR. Our meta-study of recent empirical mixed methods studies published in 2017–2019 indicates that eight (36%) of the 22 MMR studies explicitly stated a paradigmatic position (five drew on pragmatism, two switched paradigms between qualitative and quantitative elements of the study, and one was situated in relativist-interpretivism). The remaining 14 (64%) studies did not report their underpinning research philosophical assumptions. Evaluating the merits and limitations of these positions against critical realist assumptions suggests that several paradigmatic disagreements are potentially reconcilable. These include (a) maintaining that ontological and epistemological concerns are important for methodological integrity of a mixed methods study; (b) switching between paradigms in the same study is problematic; and (c) refuting the qualitative-quantitative incommensurability thesis, therefore allowing mixed methods research without compromising philosophical coherence. From a critical realist position, we suggest that both quantitative and qualitative designs are justifiable in a mixed methods study because (1) they help corroborate, refine, or refute plausible explanations of phenomena (epistemological), but (2) with different methodologies utilised to perform different tasks in the same research design related to different psycho-social system features (ontological). We call for a collaborative engagement by researchers across paradigmatic positions to work towards the advancement of methodological pluralism in our research community.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology






147 - 167


Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group


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© The Authors

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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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Gareth Wiltshire. Deposit date: 8 October 2020