Methodological flexibility in Health Psychology


  • A. Lyons


Valuable, nuanced knowledge can be gained from innovative qualitative research designs and multiple approaches to data collection. This is demonstrated with a research project that employed a number of qualitative methods to explore the role of social networking sites in young adults’ drinking practices. There were three stages of the research (friendship group discussions; face-to-face individual interviews with online technology and screen capture recordings; online ethnography) which provided multiple datasets that were analysed separately and together. A number of analytic techniques were employed, including in-depth multimodal discourse analysis and thematic analysis, to answer a range of research questions. The findings across different data sets and analyses demonstrated tensions and complexities that would not have been generated using more traditional methods or one approach to data collection. The nuanced, sophisticated knowledge obtained highlights the value of being flexible with methodologies. It also reinforces the importance of examining young people’s worlds from their own perspectives and not making assumptions as researchers. Health Psychology researchers would benefit from greater methodological flexibility, in order to understand and evaluate a range of research findings and also undertake innovative research. This will advance the field to produce effective and reliable knowledge about people’s wellbeing, especially in today’s digital world.