Overview of Mixed Methods
The following module provides a basic overview of mixed methods research including definitions and a discussion of advantages, challenges and uses.
- Define mixed methods research and compare and contrast it with qualitative and quantitative methods.
- Discuss the advantages and challenges of using mixed methods research.
- Provide basic examples of when this methodology may be useful.
In previous Research Ready modules, both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies were discussed in detail. Mixed methods research is an approach to inquiry and research that combines quantitative and qualitative methods into one study in order to provide a broader perspective. Instead of focusing on one type of methodology, mixed methods researchers emphasize the research problem and use all approaches available in order to come to a better understanding.
Mixed methods research involves collecting and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data includes closed-end information that undergoes statistical analysis and results in a numerical representation. Qualitative data, on the other hand, is more subjective and open-ended. It allows for the “voice” of the participants to be heard and interpretation of observations. Considering the methods discussed in the quantitative and qualitative modules, following are a few examples of how the methodologies may be mixed to provide a more thorough understanding of a research problem.
- A researcher may collect data using a quantitative data instrument. The researcher may then follow up by interviewing a subset of the participants to learn more detailed information about some of the survey responses, providing a more thorough understanding of the results.
- A researcher may conduct interviews to explore how individuals describe or feel about a particular topic and then use that information to develop a more useful quantitative survey.
- The researcher may be planning to use quantitative methods to assess the impact of a particular treatment plan. He or she may conducts interviews to better recruit appropriate participants for the trial.
- The researcher uses focus groups to collect information regarding a topic and then uses a quantitative survey with a larger group to validate the responses of the focus group.
These are just a few of the ways that methodologies may be combined in one study to create mixed methods research. Additional modules in this series will provide more detailed information regarding the actual methods and how to analyze the results. However, it is first important to have a clear understanding of some of the advantages and challenges associated with using mixed methods research.
- Both quantitative and qualitative research have weaknesses. Quantitative research is weak in understanding the context or setting in which data is collected. Qualitative research may include biases and does not lend itself to statistical analysis and generalization. Mixed method strategies can offset these weaknesses by allowing for both exploration and analysis in the same study.
- Researchers are able to use all the tools available to them and collect more comprehensive data. This provides results that have a broader perspective of the overall issue or research problem.
- The final results may include both observations and statistical analyses. Therefore, the results are validated within the study. Using both approaches in one study provides additional evidence and support for the findings.
- Mixed methods combines inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning.
- The researcher can use both words and numbers to communicate the results and findings and thus, appeal to a wider audience.
- Combining methodologies helps to reduce the personal biases of the researcher.
- It is more time-consuming to collect both quantitative and qualitative data.
- The study may require more resources to collect both types of data.
- The research procedures are more complicated and may be out of the comfort zone of the researcher. Investigators are often trained in quantitative or qualitative methods and may need assistance crossing over.
- Methodology requires clear presentation when published or presented so that the audience can accurately understand the procedures and the findings.
The following Slideshare Presentation, Mixed Methods Research, provides an excellent overview of mixed methods research. It compares and contrasts qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods, as well as describes mixed methodology.
- Bergman, M. M. (Ed.). (2008). Advances in mixed methods research: Theories and applications. Sage.
- Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage Publications, Incorporated.
- Creswell, J. W., & Clark, V. L. P. (2007). Designing and conducting mixed methods research.
- Johnson, R. B., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Turner, L. A. (2007). Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of mixed methods research, 1(2), 112-133.
- Johnson, R. B., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational researcher, 33(7), 14-26.
- Sale, J. E., Lohfeld, L. H., & Brazil, K. (2002). Revisiting the quantitative-qualitative debate: Implications for mixed-methods research. Quality and quantity, 36(1), 43-53.