Facet methodology

Facet Methodology is a new model for mixed-method approaches to research.

The gemstone is the research question and facets are conceived as different methodological-substantive planes and surfaces.
Designed to be capable of casting and refracting light that helps to define the concern by creating flashes of insight.


Facet Method grew from our interest in personal relationships, relationalities, and how they are lived.
It was developed as a collaborative process between Morgan Centre members. Particularly the research teams working on our Critical Associations and Living Resemblances projects.

About facet methodology

It 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 creates a set of facets in relation to specific research concerns and questions.
For example, in our Living Resemblances project, we researched 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 how resemblances are perceived in a variety of contexts;
  • a small set of 'expert' interviews;
  • a photoshoot combined with 'vox pops' to observe the performance of resemblances in public.
Facets are mini investigations that focus on strategically and artfully selected sets of questions. Facets are not discrete topics of study or mini sub-studies which are part of a bigger study. Nor are they mixes of methods (even though mixing methods is often involved).
Facets aim to produce telling insights, rather than give a comprehensive descriptive knowledge. Our approach differs from mixed methods which aim to triangulate or integrate data. Facets cast light on each other, we can also change what we see by how we look at them.
The rigour of the approach comes from researcher skill, inventiveness, creativity, insight and imagination. 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. chapters 2, 8 and 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 the difficult aspects of friendship.
It shows how a facet method 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.

Research team

Facet Methodology was 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.