In the following module, data collection strategies for mixed methods research designs will be discussed.
- List and explain common data collection methods for mixed methods
- Describe the phases of mixed methods data collection
- Discuss potential issues found in mixed methods data collection
The overall data collection methods will depend on the specific mixed methods design chosen for a particular research project. In general, both qualitative and quantitative data will be collected in all mixed methods research. The researcher will need to determine two key factors – When will the data be collected? How will the data be collected? In regards to when it will be collected, the actual data collection will either occur concurrently or sequentially depending on the design. When data are collected concurrently within a particular design, the qualitative and quantitative data are obtained simultaneously and are independent of each other. For designs where the data is collected sequentially in phases, the two forms of data are related or connected. For a list and descriptions of mixed methods designs, please see the previous module in this series, Choosing a Mixed Methods Design.
After considering the research question and determining a mixed methods design, the researcher will need to determine how the data will be collected. To do this, he or she will need to determine which qualitative and quantitative approaches will be appropriate. For a review of qualitative and quantitative research methods, refer to the Qualitative Ready and Quantitative Ready modules with the Research Ready series. The methods chosen will determine the precise procedures used for data collection. Some methods are easy to apply to larger study populations, while some result in rather small data sets. Some produce quantitative data to which statistical analyses may be applied, while others result in qualitative, descriptive data that would need to be coded or classified in order to analyze. The data quality may vary, as may the amount of potential researcher bias. Following is a list of some of the most common types of data collection methods and the key characteristics of each method.
- Surveys – high level of structure and standardization, commonly used to collect data from large numbers of people, researcher involvement with the participants is low
- Interviews – less structured, researcher involvement may be high as interviewer, more difficult to collect information from large numbers
- Focus Groups - less structured, researcher involvement may be high as interviewer, more difficult to collect information from large numbers
- Observation – less structured, requires involvement of the researcher, smaller data sample, most subjective of data collection methods, researcher bias may be higher
- Historical or Archival Methods – may not include study participants, may only involve fact-finding by researcher, may have less bias since more objective data collected
As with any research design, there are several steps in the data collection process. Sampling procedures and the sample size must be determined and the necessary permissions obtained from both participants and the Institutional Review Board if necessary. The sampling instrument(s) must be determined and developed. Finally, data is then collected, recorded and analyzed and conclusions are made. The main difference with mixed methods research is that the researcher is collecting data using more than one approach and procedure to answer the question.
Throughout the process, there are many potential issues and problems that may arise. For example, contradictory data may result during concurrent data collection. The differences in sample sizes between qualitative and quantitative approaches may also be an issue. Another question that may arise is whether or not the same participants should be sampled in a sequential approach. These are just a few examples of potential issues that a researcher may need to address. However, despite the challenges, mixed methods research provides a more comprehensive set of data that be analyzed and ultimately lead to a more complete answer to the research question.
The following Slideshare presentation, Mixed Methods Data, reviews the common research designs for mixed methods and discusses the data collection methods and data analysis for each.
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