Facet Methodology is a new model for mixed method approaches to research.
In facet methodology, the gemstone is the overall research question and facets are conceived as different methodological-substantive planes and surfaces, which are designed to be capable of casting and refracting light in a variety of ways that help to define the overall object of concern by creating flashes of insight.
Facet Methodology grew out of our interest in finding ways of capturing the range of dynamics in the way that personal relationships and relationalities are lived.
About facet methodology
Facet methodology assumes that the world - and what we seek to understand about it - is not only lived and experienced, but is multi-dimensional, contingent, relationally implicated and entwined.
Facets involve different lines of enquiry, and different ways of seeing. The approach aims to create a strategically illuminating set of facets in relation to specific research concerns and questions.
For instance, in our Living Resemblances project we were researching how people make sense of, and live with, family resemblances. We designed a project which used a series of facets including:
- creative interview encounters around questions about the living of resemblances in family life
- experimental methods exploring different ways in which resemblances are perceived and measure in a variety of contexts
- a small set of 'expert' interviews
- a photoshoot combined with 'vox pop' encounters to observe the performance of resemblances in public.
Facets are mini investigations of involve clusters of methods focussed on strategically and artfully selected sets of related questions. Facets are not simply discrete topics of study, or mini sub-studies which are part of a bigger study. Nor are they simply mixes of method (even though mixing methods is often involved).
Facets are designed with the aim of producing telling insights, rather than aiming to give a comprehensive descriptive knowledge. Our approach differs from mixed methods approaches which aim to triangulate or integrate data. Facets cast light on each other, and we can also change what we see by how we look at them.
The rigour of the approach comes ultimately from researcher skill, inventiveness, creativity, insight and imagination – in deciding how best to carve the facets so that they catch the light in the best possible way.
Publications and outputs
For a more detailed discussion of facet methodology, the best place to start is:
Mason, J (2018), Qualitative Researching 3rd edition, London: Sage, esp. chapter 2, also chapters 8&9
Mason, J (2011) 'Facet Methodology: the Case for an Inventive Research Orientation'. Methodological Innovations Online, 6 (3) 75-92
The article below is based on the Critical Associations project which explored some of the difficult or negative aspects of friendship. It shows how a facet methodology approach, including 'Era memory workshops', 'situated interviews' and a Mass Observation Project directive, led to distinctive ways of researching the complexities of everyday life.
Davies, K and Heaphy, B (2011) 'Interactions that Matter: Researching Critical Associations' . Methodological Innovations Online, 6 (3) 5-16.
Facet Methodology has been, and continues to be, developed by colleagues at the Morgan Centre, led by Jennifer Mason, with Katherine Davies, Carol Smart, Brian Heaphy, Vanessa May, Sue Heath, Stewart Muir and James Nazroo.