Using ‘mixed methods’

Mixed methods (mixing quantitative and qualitative research methods) and triangulation (using more than one method, or data set) are increasingly fashionable in research. As a more pragmatic approach, mixed methods can be seen as a third research paradigm (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004), a middle position which is essentially outcome driven.

While we have hinted at links between a particular method and a particular epistemological position, in practice ‘aligning a particular epistemology and paradigm with a particular methodology is not necessarily straightforward or helpful’ (Goodrick, 2011, p 11). Treating the two main approaches as totally separate, denying the possibilities for working back and forth between these two extremes is problematic according to Morgan (2007), who advocates a more pragmatic approach, examining ‘what people can do with the knowledge they produce and not on abstract arguments about the possibility or impossibility of generalizability’ (Morgan, 2007, p 72). Moving beyond attachment to one paradigm generally has’ greater power to convince a reader/examiner of the quality and value of your findings’ (Cooksey & Mc Donald, 2011, p 199).  Mixed methods assumes that a methodology is chosen simply for its capacity to address research objectives. When using mixed methods  is important to keep in mind

  • how different data sets will co-operate
  • different guiding assumption underlying each method chosen

Mixed methods involves collecting data in a simultaneous or sequential manner using methods drawn from both quantitative and qualitative traditions.

Mixed methods advantages

  • Balances strengths and limitations of quantitative and qualitative
  • Facilitates view from different perspectives
  • Enhances credibility among a wider group

Combining quantitative and qualitative research allows (Bryman, 2004)

  • triangulation
  • ability to fill in gaps
  • use of one methodology to facilitate other
  • combining of static and procedural features
  • gaining perspectives of researcher & participant

Possible issues

  • role of theory in relation to research (deductive or inductive)
  • epistemological orientation
  • ontological orientation

Mixed methods requires

  • Broader skill set
  • Broader experience
  • Time and resources
  • Acceptance and understanding of mixed methods

Mixed methods research design

  • What kinds of methods can be mixed?
  • How can they be mixed?
  • What is the rationale for mixing these particular methods?
  • Are the methods being applied at the same time?
  • Are the methods used in a chronological/sequential sequence?
  • What is the relative weight given to each method? Is there a dominant method?

Major Designs

Adapted from Creswell & Plano-Clark (2007/2011), and Creswell (2009)

mixed-methods-2

Example of concurrent triangulation design

Purpose: Examine adolescents’ attitudes towards recreation alcohol

Methods: Total of 563 adolescents were asked to complete a structured questionnaire on alcohol use.  At the same time four focus group sessions with 8 to 10 young people in each were held

Concurrent embedded Design

Example: research in organisation carries out quantitative study of all employees, and at the same time qualitative interviews of cleaners

mixed-methods

Sequential exploratory

The qualitative research generally aims to follow up, to explore result from quantitative research done earlier. This approach tends to be chosen by researchers who favour a quantitative approach (Creswell, 2009). The research progresses in clear separate stages

  • Weight is on qualitative
  • Quantitative builds on result of qualitative
  • Useful to develop an instrument, a model…

Example of sequential explanatory design

Purpose : examine and compare science classroom learning environments in Singapore and Australia from different perspectives.

Methods : Large scale quantitative questionnaire  collecting data from 1081 students in Australia and 1879 students in Singapore

Data used as a springboard for further data collection involving interviews with participants, observations, and narrative stories

Triangulation was used to secure an in-depth understanding of the learning environment and to provide richness to the whole.

Concurrent transformative

Involves the concurrent collection of quant and qual data.

Design issues in mixed method research

  • What is the purpose of the research? – Who is the audience?
  • What are your research questions?
  • What methods will best help you answer those questions?
  • Who do you need to ‘find out’ from? –Data sources
  • What is the approximate sample size you will require to generate credible evidence?
  • How will you analyse the data?
  • How will validity/trustworthiness issues be addressed?
  • What are your timelines? What skills/resource/ constraints/personal factors might enhance or limit the study?

Triangulation and mixed methods

Mixed methods involves more complex research. AND there is NO guarantee that research converges into one single story – multiple methods, multiple data sources, multiple analysts, multiple perspectives multiple or contradictory stories may need to be reconciled (Cooksey & Mc Donald, 2011). The aim is to understand areas of convergence and divergence for  opening  up a new understanding.

Consider the following vocabulary to explain how findings may link together (Based on Greene et al. 1989, p 259):

Triangulation: convergence, corroboration, correspondence or results from different methods.

Crystallisation: bring together findings

Complementarity: seeks elaboration, enhancement, illustration, clarification of the results from one method with the results from another

Development: seeks to use the results from one method to help develop or inform the other method

Initiation: seeks the discovery of paradox and contradiction, new perspectives frameworks, the recasting of questions or results from one method with questions or results from the other method

Expansion: seeks to extend the breadth and range of enquiry by using different methods for different inquiry components

Data Collection Methods

  • Clinical/Medical data collection (quant)
  • Document analysis (qual/quant)
  • Diaries (qual/quant)
  • Focus groups and group interviews (qual)
  • Interviews (qual/quant)
  • Observational strategies (qual/quant)
  • Photographs and videos
  • Q-sort (qual/quant)
  • Scales – Quant- Semantic differential/Goal Attainment scales
  • Survey (quant/qual)
  • Tests (quant)

References

Bryman, A and Bell, E. (2011). Business Research Methods. Oxford University Press

Cooksey, Ray & McDonald, Gael (2011), Surviving and thriving in postgraduate research. Tilde University Press, Prahran

Cresswell, JW., & Plano-Clark, V.L. (2011).  Designing and conducting Mixed Methods Research (2nd Ed). Sage: Los Angeles

Creswell, J. W. (2003). Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five traditions, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Creswell, J.W. (2009). Research Design. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches, Sage: Thousand Oaks.

Denzin, N & Lincoln, Y. (eds.) (1994). Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Goodrick, D. (2011), Qualitative Research, Design, Analysis and Representation, unpublished notes from workshop presented at ACSPRI Canberra 2011

Greene, J. (2007). Mixed methods in social inquiry.  San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Guba, E.G and Lincoln, Y.S. (1994). ‘Competing paradigms in qualitative research’.  In Denzin N.K. and Lincoln Y.S. (eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research, 105-117.

Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004 Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come Educational Researcher October 2004 33:14-26.

Onwuegbuzie, A.J. & Johnson, R.B. (2006).  ‘The validity issue in mixed research’. Research in the schools, 13(1), 48-63

Minichiello, Victor & Kottler, Jeffrey A. (2010), Qualitative Journeys. Student and mentor experiences with research. Thousands oaks: Sage

Morgan, David L.(2007), ‘Paradigms Lost and Pragmatism Regained : Methodological Implications of Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods’. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1/1, 48 – 7

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