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Introduction: Research interest and methodological approach

CO:RE Methods Handbook | Methods in practice: Studying children and youth online

Sirkku Kotilainen

Please cite as: Kotilainen, S. (2022): Introduction: Research interest and methodological approach. In S. Kotilainen (Ed.), Methods in practice: Studying children and youth online (chapter 1). Retrieved DD Month YYYY, from, doi:

When formulating the problem and an interest of research, one needs to pose the research question and decide the methods to be used, depending on each other and the context of the study. Already the research question leads to thinking about the paradigm together with the objective of the research. 

Regarding mixed methods research, paradigms have been understood as several worldviews meaning philosophical foundations (Creswell and Tashakkori, 2007); rooting from the methodological perspective as being an approach (Freshwater and Cahill, 2012) or stemming from different uses of the term “paradigm” (Mertens, 2012). All in all, the selection of methodological approaches is important for securing the robustness of the study in an ethical manner as well as possible. Thus, the key question is, how the mixed methods approach is in line with the philosophical foundations of the study.   

Traditionally, paradigms of inquiry have been classified as (following Mertens, 2012):

  • positivist/post positivist paradigm aiming to describe the phenomenon, mostly applying quantitative methods using, for example, experimental tools, testing or scales.

  • interpretivist/ constructivist paradigm aiming to understand the phenomenon, mostly applying qualitative methods, for example, interviews, observation, or visual data analysis.

  • transformative paradigm aiming to change contextually, applying mixed methods (avoiding discrimination)

  • pragmatic paradigm aiming to develop/ create in practice, applying mixed methods matching the purpose of the study.    

Both transformative and pragmatic approaches apply mixed methods. This has been one argument for critics, suggesting mixed methods as a paradigm itself (e.g., Ghiara, 2020). Cronenberg (2020) is suggesting a “paradigm parley” as a dialectic stance.  Still, noticeable is that the philosophical foundations are differing with each other: transformative paradigm is aiming for political change in avoiding oppression, while pragmatic paradigm is aiming to develop circumstances or create artifacts for specific purpose contextually.  

Methods are not any isolated activities but linked with the research as a comprehensive setting of decisions and actions. Starting with a wicked problem, then going through a path of reflective thinking and reading, one can define the research question. That leads to certain methodological choices in a framework of inquiry including ways of analyzing the data. Moreover, the research process is calling for ethical choices with actions to take in use.   

This publication is about actual cases of making the research on digital cultures of children and young which can be of help in the methodological sense. Hopefully, the cases as reflective narratives of already implemented studies, can help the reader to avoid pitfalls on the way of studying children and youth online. The production of this publication started in 2021 with an open call for papers, followed by a referendum process and a few rounds of edits by authors. Finally, it was published in June 2022 in the form of short articles with authors’ video abstracts online. 

Articles are meant to deepen the Methods Toolkit together with Ethical Compass. First, authors introduce the actual case and context, second, they describe the main methodological practices used as mixed methods in the case and as third, authors map up the lessons learned as conclusion with selected references.

Short articles situate in three different fields of studying children and youth online as content-based: a) studying children and youth as users of digital media; b) participatory research with children and youth on digital media and, c) ethical aspects on studying children and youth as users online. 

Download the full handbook here: PDF.

  1. Creswell, J. W., Tashakkori, A. (2007). “Differing perspectives on mixed methods research.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(4), 303-308. doi:10.1177/1558689807306132

  2. Cronenberg, S. (2020). Paradigm parley: A framework for the dialectic stance. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 14(1), 26-46. doi:10.1177/1558689818777925

  3. Freshwater, D., Cahill, J. (2012). Why write? Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 6(3), 151-153. doi:10.1177/1558689812452416

  4. Ghiara, V. (2020). Disambiguating the role of paradigms in mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 14(1), 11-25. doi:10.1177/1558689818819928

  5. Mertens, D. M. (2012) “What Comes First? The Paradigm or the Approach?” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 6 (4), pp. 255-257. doi:10.1177/1558689812461574

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