4th Annual Southwest Workshop on Mixed Methods Research

The Fourth Annual Southwest Workshop on Mixed Methods Research (SWMMR) is now over. Four exceptional political scientists – Sara Niedzwiecki, Jennifer Cyr, Kendra Koivu, and Marissa Brookes – organize this fantastic annual event. Many thanks to them for making it happen once again!

Methodological pluralism – Although some might associate multi-method research with a hybrid of quantitative and qualitative approaches, I am always struck by how eclectic mix-methods research is. Papers presented in Santa Cruz used a wide variety of approaches, from ethnography, focus groups, and case studies, to experiments, statistical methods, and QCA. Similarly, the substantive coverage was equally diverse. Some papers focused on local concerns such as anti-homelessness policies in San Francisco, while others were interested in national concerns including performative governance in China and secularization in India. Other essays still were comparative in their orientation, examining a wide variety of phenomena from electoral violence in Kenya and India to consequences of a constituent assembly in Latin America. The workshop on mixed-methods research would not have been complete without articles explicitly focused on social science methodology. These papers included the analysis of multilevel research design and examination of civil wars as critical junctures. Political science is in the middle of a multi-method boom, but the sheer number of scholarly works employing mixed-methods does not capture the whole story. Events like the SWMMR underscore a different dimension of this boom, specifically its impressive methodological diversity and variety of examined phenomena.

Feedback – There are many things that make the SWWMR workshop great, but perhaps none is more important than the excellent feedback each participant receives. This year the discussant group consisted of Colin Elman, Diana Kapiszewski, Ben Read and Alison Post. To say that these four scholars are well established researchers would have been a huge understatement. The ability to give valuable feedback is both difficult and perhaps not appreciated as much as it ought to be in our discipline. As a freshly minted scholar, I was very much impressed by how each discussant first summarized key arguments and then offered comments that moved each project forward. In fact, the discussants went beyond just commenting; they were willing to engage actively with each paper bringing their many years of expertise into the process. But the feedback did not stop there. Other workshop participants shared their thoughts too, so overall each presenter received a wealth of comments and suggestions. The whole feedback process amounted to project building as opposed receiving feedback that makes you question whether going to graduate school was in fact the right choice to make. If you are interested in constructive feedback, you will certainly find it during the SWMMR workshops.

Experience – I feel very fortunate because this was my second SWMMR workshop. In 2016, while still a graduate student, I presented my work at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Political science research is of course about publishing; publish or perish as they say. However, there is something to be said about interacting with people who are interested in the same topics as you are, and testing your ideas in front of them. Personally, I felt that at times people commenting on my work understood it better than me. Hearing other people react to my research will certainly help me frame my arguments going forward. But there is also another type of experience I collected there that is more difficult to describe. Two years ago, for example, Jim Mahoney was commenting on my work. Afterwards we had a chance to chat for about 30 minutes about my research and political science in general. In my mind that conversation amounted to a semester worth of graduate classes that I’ve somehow missed. This year too, I learned more than I was able to offer. Without a doubt both SWMMR workshops were “critical junctures” as far as my professional development is concerned. Doing political science can be both foreign and intimidating, especially for scholars coming from less well-known programs. However, the SWMMR workshops foster a much different environment, one  that is based on inclusion, respect, and professional feedback. The whole experience was very rewarding for me personally, but I suspect that other participants share my feelings.

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