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John R. Campbell

This article explores the relation between theory and method in three methodologically innovative studies of rural poverty. The issue is pertinent because the nature of research on poverty has shifted from small-scale qualitative studies to large surveys, and to national-scale studies that combine qualitative and quantitative methods in an effort to inform policy makers on appropriate poverty reduction strategies. The interest in combined methods holds considerable promise for poverty research because it links a search for 'objective' economic concerns to the analysis of 'subjective' and context-specific issues. It is instructive to examine recent studies of poverty that have pursued different theoretical and methodological choices with a view to understand how 'theory' influenced methodological choices, and whether and how such choices influenced their understanding of poverty.

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Development research

Convergent or divergent approaches and understandings of poverty? An introduction

John R. Campbell and Jeremy Holland

Is it possible or indeed desirable to combine qualitative, participatory and quantitative research methods and approaches to better understand poverty? This special section of Focaal seeks to explore a number of contentious, inter-related issues that arise from multimethod research that is driven by growing international policy concerns to reduce global poverty. We seek to initiate an interdisciplinary dialog about the limits of methodological integration by examining existing research practice to better understand the strengths and limitations of combining methods which derive from different epistemological premises. We ask how methods might be combined to better address issues of causality, and whether the concept of triangulation offers a possible way forward. In examining existing research we find little in the way of shared understanding about poverty and, due to the dominance of econometrics and its insistence on using household surveys, very little middle ground where other disciplines might collaborate to rethink key conceptual and methodological issues.