Stories of Research to Reality: John W. Creswell

John W. Creswell
John W. Creswell

In early May SAGE gathered seven social scientists on Capitol Hill to tell stories, stories of their disciplines’so impact on society and the economy, and stories of their own academic journey. The underlying goal of “Stories of Research to Reality: How the Social Sciences Change the World” was both to mark SAGE’s 50th birthday as an independent publisher and to demonstrate the value and impact of social science itself, increasingly under attack as either a waste or a luxury by some legislators.

The entire event, moderated by prominent blogger and George Washington University political scientist John Sides and held at the Hart Senate Office Building, was recorded; the seven individual videos are being published here over the next seven weeks. Each tale presents one facet of the real-world value of actual social and behavioral science research, with the implicit message that this is scholarship we should be encouraging.

The third speaker in this series is John W. Creswell, professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His latest book, A Concise Introduction to Mixed Method Research, spotlights his own contribution to social science, as an apostle of ‘mixed methods’ – combining well-established qualitative and quantitative approaches.

In this talk, Creswell opens by asking just what a researcher might look like – an anthropologist walking through the jungle in a broad-brimmed hat, or a laboratory scientist in a white coat, or a student hunched over a keyboard in the computer lab. ”Here’s the message I want to give you today,” he continued. “We’re all very close to research. When we gather information to understand this world that we’re in, we are gathering both numbers and statistics, and the stories of people. The research methods I do put those two together.”

As a real-world example, he cited the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, where innumerable sets of numbers about the race, the crime and the aftermath were collected, some of which he reeled off. At the time of the bombing, Creswell was working at the Harvard Humanitarian Institute, and doctors from there were among the first to respond to the carnage.

Creswell himself was at mile marker 23 – he’d decided not to head down to the finish line three miles further – and found a happy scene as speakers blasted out “Sweet Caroline” and the weary runners offered a smile as they sprinted past. But later the flow of runners reversed, as the athletes walked past, their heads down and smile vanished, after being turned around at mile 24.

So, Creswell observed, “I started with the numbers, and then I told you my personal story.” That is the essence of mixed methods, whether in research methodologies or less academic endeavors like journalism, sports (with its numbers commentator paired the so-called ‘color guy’), or a visit to the doctor. From this platform, He then detailed some of the ways his own mixed methods research has been used.


John Creswell is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Mixed Methods Research. His own activities in the field have been varied. He was a senior Fulbright Scholar to South Africa in 2008 and to Thailand in 2012, and in 2011 was the co-leader of a working group developing best practices for mixed methods at the National Institutes of Health. He’s the current president of the Mixed Methods International Research Association and director of the College of Education and Human Sciences Mixed Methods Academy at his university.

The first speakers in this series were:

Deborah Rupp | William C. Byham Chair in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University. To see her talk, click HERE.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita | Julius Silver Professor of Politics, New York University. To see his talk, click HERE.

Upcoming speakers in this series include:

Claire M. Renzetti | professor of sociology, University of Kentucky

Michael Reisch | Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice, University of Maryland

Jim Knight |research associate, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, and director of the Kansas Coaching Project

Kerric Harvey | associate professor of media and public affairs, and associate director of the Center for Innovative Media, George Washington University

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