While identity researchers are utilizing a variety of methods, the potential advantages of combinations of qualitative and quantitative methods remain largely unexploited. This article discusses the interplay of methods, theoretical content and meta-theoretical assumptions in identity research and calls for the use of mixed methods. The article applies a symbolic inter- actionist perspective and discusses what aspects of identification different methodological approaches provide insight into. It is discussed how different methodologies imply different assumptions about identity, particularly regarding the stability of identities, the constitution of identities and the conception of meaning. The influential quantitative Burke–Tully approach is brought into focus and compared to different qualitative approaches, particularly narrative interviews. A quantitative self-report measure neglects the narrative, performative and embo- died quality of identification. However, the quantitative approach of Burke and Tully enables the systematic, standardized comparison of individuals making it possible to examine patterns of identification in large populations. Since different methods enable the study of different aspects of identity, while remaining blind to other aspects, mixed methods may contribute to more complete insights into identity processes. Importantly, mixed methods may be used to examine patterns available to the outside observer and the lifeworld of the individual actor and thus to both explain and understand.
Acta Sociologica, 2013, Vol 56, Issue 4, p. 347-360