Mixed methods refer to an emerging methodology of conducting research that utilizes the systematic ‘mixing’ or integration of both qualitative and quantitative data within one investigation of inquiry. The elementary premise of mixed research method is that such an integration allows a more comprehensive and synergetic use of data instead of separating the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. For instance, the evaluation of patient-centered medical homes method offers an ideal opportunity for the mixed method research to contribute to the learning of the best practices on implementation and effectiveness in achieving the outcomes of a study (Bergman, 2008). The mixed method originated from the social sciences and had further expanded into medical and health sciences. Mixed methods research can be identified as a methodology for conducting research that entails collecting, integrating, and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data in one study of inquiry. The main merit of this kind of research design is that both quantitative and qualitative research gives a better comprehension of a research problem than employing only one research approach.
A qualitative approach to mixed methods shows how the procedural practices can limit or outline how mixed method research is accomplished and also makes the existing practical assumptions visible. A qualitative approach aims to understand how people attain meaning to their social environment (Creswell, 2013). The social world can be termed as being dependent on individual understanding as it is created via social connections of characters in their environments. This approach, therefore, is aimed at developing multiple perceptions of the collective reality where an investigator’s subject becomes the expert in his or her interpretation of the reality. The social reality, in this instance, is assumed to be subjective and wide-ranging, and there are multiple accounts of lived experiences. In this sense, one main method of a qualitative approach to mixed research methods entails listening and values reflection with the aim of giving voice and empowering the respondent’s experiences (Creswell, 2011). As such, the qualitative approach honors the exploration of the human meaning-making process.
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Quantitative approach implies the systematic and empirical investigation of observable events through the use of mathematical, computation or statistical methods. The goal of quantitative research is to use and develop mathematical theories and hypotheses about a particular occurrence. The process of measurement in quantitative research is significant because it gives the fundamental link between mathematical expression and empirical observation of quantitative relationships (Morse and Nichaus, 2009). It can be noted that quantitative data can be termed as any given data that is in numerical form, for instance in percentages and statistics. Using this method, the researcher analyzes the data, employing the help of statistics. Therefore, the researcher hopes that the numbers will produce an unbiased outcome that can be inferred to the whole population. This method of research, on the other hand, necessitates numerous questions and collects data from the participants or the event. The researcher, in this case, looks for themes and elaborates the information in those themes and patterns to the participants (Robson, 2011).
Over the past thirty or more years, much has been written about mixed method research. This method is gaining acceptance among researchers. The various research design options available impacts the general body of knowledge. For instance, mixed method has the potential to enhance the validity of studies beyond the conventional qualitative and quantitative research studies. It can also provide better insights and challenge researchers through contradictory or divergent discoveries, as well as encourage the researchers to change hypotheses and research questions; and conceivably seal the gaps to enhance the literature (Aveyard, 2014). The mixed research method is not known to the behavioral science field. When considering using this method of research design, the researchers are encouraged to outline the primary aims of using it. This can be done bearing in mind that despite the fact that this approach might be originally suggested for a particular study, new characteristics could arise as the research progresses leading to alterations.
According to Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2010), they maintained that mixing qualitative and quantitative methods of research is not a new concept for those working in fields such as counseling. Evaluations in such a field as counseling, for instance, necessitates the assessment of various forms of data and counselors normally use qualitative and quantitative evaluations, be it the practitioner or the researcher. Nevertheless, only 3% of articles were identified out of the total articles from the American Counseling Association. This discovery happened albeit the general growth of mixed research method in the literature. Furthermore, the mixed method of research has illustrated the usefulness for dealing with coexisting quantitative and qualitative questions. The rationale for this, as presented by researchers, might be due to lack of training. Moreover, other reasons might entail the erratic personal beliefs of either qualitative or quantitative research that hinders mixing the two methods (Creswell, 2014).
Mixed method design provides researchers a chance to quantify variables to explain, validate, and inform their findings in a research study. For assessment studies, mixed method research provides opportunities to comprehend questions of ‘why’ and ‘how much’.Mixed method research has value in teaching and research, the researchers are warned against advocating for this method as being better than either qualitative or quantitative design (Hesse-Biber, 2010). Despite this method being worth in working to enhance the research design, the researchers using it should evade the notion that mixed method research is the best approach and, hence, should be employed exclusively. It can be noted that mixed method research design is amongst the many methods that are available to researchers. Additionally, the implications for advocating for the use of mixed method research in academic studies is that it produces richer insights into the occurrences under investigation than what might be missed by merely employing a single research methodology. Moreover, utilizing mixed research approach improves the facts and presents a stronger conclusion and produces more inquisitive questions for further studies. Additionally, it can handle a wider array of questions since the investigator is not restricted to only one research approach (Lincoln and Guba, 1985).
Benefits of Mixed Method Research
The use mixed method research offers numerous benefits to the researcher. By using this research design, the researcher is guaranteed advantages that counterbalance the flaws of using either qualitative or quantitative research approach. For instance, using quantitative approach may prove to be frail in comprehending the perspective in which individuals act. Qualitative research makes up for this when using mixed design. Conversely, qualitative research is viewed as being captivating due to the latent for giving partial elucidations by the researcher and also the tenacity in inferring results to a bigger population. It can be agreed that quantitative research does not have these flaws (Shalin, 2014). Therefore, by utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research designs, the weaknesses of each methodology can be counteracted by the strengths of the other. Also, the mixed method offers a more comprehensive and complete comprehension of the research questions than when using either qualitative or quantitative approach. The use of mixed method research provides a method for creating a more context-specific instrument. For instance, by employing qualitative research, it is probable to collect information concerning a particular topic so as to build a better and valid instrument. Moreover, mixed method research assists in explaining the findings (Morse and Nichaus, 2009).
Drawbacks of Mixed Method Research
One of the main demerits of mixed method design is that when a researcher quantifies qualitative data, it tends to lose its depth and flexibility. This happens because qualitative codes are multidimensional as opposed to the quantitative ones which are fixed and one-dimensional. Therefore, altering rich qualitative figures to dichotomous variables produces a single dimensional and incontrovertible data. Even though a researcher can avoid quantifying qualitative data, it can become very time wasting and ambiguous process since it needs analysis, coding, and integration of data from unstructured to structured one (Tashakkori and Teddie, 2010). Another drawback associated with mixed design is the obvious statistical measurement restraints of qualitative data when it has been quantified since quantified qualitative data is quite prone to colinearity. As such, the researchers having to gather and analyze qualitative data may tend to reduce their sample size for the design to be less time-wasting and, doing so, can significantly impact statistical procedures. This can be termed as a severe challenge for mixed method research as the researcher may not possess the adequate statistical power to support their research (Robson, 2011).
Balancing the Qualitative and Quantitative Approach
Making a choice between using qualitative or quantitative research method fundamentally rests on various decisions concerning the questions that a researcher intends to answer, as well as the practicality of collecting the type of data that will answer the questions. Therefore, in striking a balance the initial step is to seek an obvious fit (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2010). Even though there exist several differences between quantitative and qualitative approach, there is one significant difference. Qualitative research is inductive and does not need a hypothesis to commence the research process. On the other hand, quantitative research is considered deductive and leans on the presence of a hypothesis, identified before the beginning of the research. Therefore, a researcher has to take into consideration every aspect of the research he or she intends to undertake before determining whether to employ a mixed design or to select the suitable method from the two (Bergman, 2008).
Examples of Mixed Method Approach
There are various approaches of a mixed method that can be identified. The first example is the convergent parallel, which entails the simultaneous collection, merging, and use of both quantitative and qualitative data. Explanatory sequential is another example that implies the initial gathering of quantitative data before collecting the qualitative data to improve on the quantitative findings. The third example is exploratory sequential, which means to first gather qualitative data to investigate an event and then gathering the quantitative data to explain the qualitative findings. Another example is embedded – to collect quantitative and qualitative data simultaneously while the researcher’s design aim is to support the outcomes of the other design. Transformative is another example that implies the use of explanatory, convergent, exploratory, or embedded design within a changing context. Finally, multiphase design encompasses the examination of a subject via several studies (Creswell, 2013).
The researcher must always be aware of his or her goals when choosing the research design to use when undertaking a study. This is because it may be a case that using the mixed method approach does not progress the hypothetical comprehension of a given research issue. Therefore an investigator must be keen to strike a balance between using a qualitative or a quantitative approach when attempting to solve a research question. Mixed method research has both advantages and disadvantages that a researcher has to weigh carefully before deciding to employ such a design. It can be concluded that mixed method research offers a researcher a broad scope of choices when conducting a study than using either qualitative or quantitative approach only.
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