The classification by many scholars of numerical research processes as quantitative and other research techniques as qualitative has prompted the construction of a third category, that of ‘mixed methods’, to describe studies that use elements from both processes. Such labels might be helpful in structuring our understanding of phenomena. But they can also inhibit our activities when they serve as inaccurate or limiting descriptors. Based on the observation that mixed methods is fast becoming a common research approach in the social sciences, this paper questions whether the assumptions that are used and perpetuated by mixed methods are valid. The paper calls for a critical change in how we perceive research, in order to better describe actual research processes. A more ethological taxonomy of the mechanisms underlying research structures and processes is posited to encourage creative thinking around alternatives to the three purported paradigms of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. This ‘return to basics’ seeks to encourage new and innovative research designs to emerge, and suggests a rebirth of research from the ashes of mixed methods.