Overcoming Mixed Feelings about Mixed Methodologies: Complex Strategies for Research Among Hidden Populations

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Choosing a methodological approach for any research problematique can be difficult; choosing such an approach for complex social research agendas, especially those exploring issues or behaviours among hidden populations can pose even greater challenges. This article explores some strategies to overcome those challenges through the employment of mixed research methodologies. To do so, the article discusses two studies among hidden populations in Central Europe, and explores the different techniques employed to preserve or enhance the intersubjective quality of engagements with respondents. In particular the article examines the outcomes of two mixed strategies: the use of empathetic interview engagements modeled on the psychodynamic concept of the working alliance, and the use of personal construct devices, including the spatial mapping of respondents' daily travel, of their perception of physical environments, their social networks, and their personal relationships to authority. The enhanced interview technique is designed to minimize the cues from the interviewer to the respondent and further open the discursive space between the two for greater latitude in the encounter. This is accomplished by a greater awareness of the content and form of the prompts given by the interviewer. Similarly the interactive tasks when the respondents graphically depict their everyday encounters in their social world focuses the encounter on the respondents' personal constructs. This technique is especially useful in combination with more structured interviews, as the personal construct exercises open freeform engagements, prime structured responses, and provide respondents with the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and introduce concepts that may not be captured through the structured interviews.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-130
Number of pages30
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


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