Department of Political Science

The Great Divides: Incommensurability, the Impossibility of Mixed-Methodology, and What to Do about It

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DOI

There is still significant confusion about how multimethod research can be undertaken and even if it is possible. The article makes the claims that much of the confusion is the result of a failure to distinguish between multimethod and multimethodology research. We argue that there are at least three different methodological languages: variance-based, case-based, and interpretivist. The article starts by discussing the ontological and epistemological foundations underlying the three different methodologies that result in them making very different types of claims evidenced with very different empirical material. Variance-based methodologies assesses mean causal effects across a set of cases, whereas case-based methodologies focus on how a causal process works within a case. Markedly different from the causally oriented variance- and case-bases approaches, interpretivist research ask questions about human meaning-making in specific contexts. While the claim of methodological incommensurability is not a new claim, the contribution we make in this article is to unpack more clearly the irreconcilable differences that exist across the three methodologies and how they play out in international studies scholarship, and to provide suggestions for what we can do about it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Studies Review
Volume22
Issue2
Pages (from-to)214-235
ISSN1521-9488
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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