Mixed Methods Research Design

Mixed methods research is an inquiry approach that combines quantitative and qualitative forms. It is used to conduct research that involves collecting, integrating, and analyzing qualitative research, such as focus groups and quantitative research, such as surveys and experiments. It provides researchers across various research disciplines with a better understanding of the research question and a rigorous approach to answering them. Research design should be clearly articulated to the audience. By mixing qualitative and quantitative data and research, you will gain in-depth knowledge on corroboration while offsetting the weaknesses related to each approach. One of the benefits of conducting mixed method research is the possibility of triangulation. Triangulation refers to the use of various means, methods, researchers, and data sources to investigate the same phenomenon. Triangulation enables researchers to accurately identify elements of a phenomenon approaching it from various vantage points using different techniques. Careful evaluation of the information provided by each approach, including its strengths and weaknesses, will lead to successful triangulation. To utilize this research design effectively, you need to have a clear understanding of quantitative and qualitative research.

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In quantitative research, the researcher decides what to investigate; they ask specific questions, collects quantifiable data from participants, analyze these numbers using statistical methods and conduct an unbiased inquiry. The research attempts to quantify the study variables. The methodology section of quantitative research involves the collection of numerical data that can be analyzed statistically. Some of the data collection methods include content analysis, personality measure and performance tests. On the other hand, a qualitative researcher will rely on the participant’s views. They will ask broad, general questions, collect data consisting of words from participants, analyze the words for themes and conduct a biased inquiry. The qualitative methodology involves listening to participants and finding common themes among several participants. Examples of data collection methods are focus groups, open-ended questionnaires, observations and interviews. Mixed method research design methodology will utilize both qualitative and quantitative data collection methodologies. Examples include:

  • Interviews and questionnaires.
  • Performance tests and observation.
  • Questionnaires and follow up focus groups.

Essential Characteristics Of Mixed Methods Research Design

  • Rationale.
      – Test first phase findings.
      – Give a detailed explanation of the first phase results.
      – Provide a comprehensive understanding than either individual research approaches.
  • Collecting qualitative and quantitative data.
      – Numeric data.
      – Text data.

When To Use Mixed Methods Research Design

Mixed methods research design is suited for the following situations:

  • When a researcher wants to validate the results obtained from other research methods.
  • When the researcher wants to use one method to inform the other method, they will use this design. For example, when little information is known about a subject matter, it is essential to learn the study variables through qualitative research and study those variables with a large population sample using quantitative research.
  • When the researcher wants to constantly look at research questions from different angles and clarify potential contradictions or unexpected results.
  • When the researcher wants to build on, elaborate or clarify findings from other research methods, for instance, if you have established a causal relationship through experimental research but need to understand and explain the causal processes involved in qualitative research.
  • When the researcher wants to develop a theory about a topic of interest and then test it. Qualitative research is usually suitable for building theory, while quantitative research provides an ideal way of testing theories.
  • When the researcher wants to generalize qualitative research findings.
  • When both quantitative and qualitative research methods provide a better understanding than either approach by itself.

Advantages Of Mixed Methods Research Design

The use of mixed methods research design has several benefits that have been outlined in this article. One of the advantages is that it provides strengths that overcome qualitative and quantitative research weaknesses. In quantitative research, understanding how participants behave is challenging, something that is made up for in qualitative research. On the other hand, qualitative research is deemed deficient because of the possibility of biased interpretations made by the investigator and difficulty in generalizing findings to a large study group. Quantitative research does not have such weaknesses. Therefore by combining both types of research methods, the strengths of each technique will make up for the shortcomings in the other.

Mixed method research design offers a more comprehensive and complete understanding of the research problem than qualitative or quantitative techniques alone. It also helps to explain the working of causal processes and research findings.

Lastly, the research design provides an approach for developing context-specific and better instruments. With qualitative research, you can gather information about a specific topic or construct to create an instrument with more significant construct validity.

Disadvantages Of Mixed Method Research Designs

Although it has several benefits, mixed method research design also has some limitations.

  • It is very complex.
  • Planning and implementing this type of research design require a lot of time and resources.
  • It may be hard to plan and implement one approach by drawing on the results of another.
  • Solving the discrepancies that arise in the interpretation of results may be unclear.

Types Of Mixed Method Research Design

When debating the type of mixed method research design to use, it is crucial to consider the study’s overall purpose, for example, generalization and exploration, the strengths and weaknesses of each design, and the specific research questions. There are four types of mixed methods designs. This article has discussed the types of research designs and compared them in terms of strengths, weaknesses and purposes.

In this design, quantitative data is collected and analyzed first, then qualitative data collected and analyzed next. Researchers prioritize quantitative data, and the findings of both methods are integrated during the study’s interpretation phase.  It is used to help contextualize or explain quantitative findings and examine details of unexpected results from quantitative research. The design has its strengths; it is easy to implement because of the precise steps involved, and it is also easy to describe the design and report the results. However, data collection requires a lot of time to be completed.

The design involves the collection and analysis of qualitative data followed by collection and analysis of quantitative data. Here the qualitative aspect of the research is given priority, and the findings are also integrated during the study’s interpretation phase. The design is used to expand on qualitative results, explore a phenomenon, and test the elements of a theory emerging from qualitative research. It is also used to develop and test new instruments and generalize qualitative results to various samples to determine the distribution of phenomena within a selected population. The design is easy to implement because of the clear spate stages involved and easy to describe and report finding. This research design has some weaknesses; it has two phases of data collection that will require a substantial amount of time. Building from qualitative analysis to a subsequent collection of data may also be challenging.

It has one phase of data collection during which qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis is done separately but concurrently. The results are integrated during the research’s interpretation phase. In this design, priority is given to both research types. The method is applied when one wants to understand a phenomenon or topic and cross-validate findings. Some of its strengths are that it provides well-validated data, and data collection takes less time than sequential designs. The following are the limitations of the design:

  • Using two research approaches simultaneously requires expertise and effort.
  • Comparing findings of two analysis using data of different forms may be difficult.
  • How to solve discrepancies that exist when comparing findings may be unclear.
  • Data collection is done concurrently; thus, the results of one approach cannot be integrated with the other approach.

The design uses only one data collection phase, during which a predominant approach (qualitative or quantitative) nests the other less prioritized method.  The nesting means that the embedded technique and the dominant method address different questions or seek different information levels. Data collected from the two approaches are integrated during the study’s analysis phase. Concurrent nested design is used when the researcher seeks to gain broader perspectives of the topic and to offset weaknesses in the predominant method. Researchers minimize the time and resources used in the design since two data types are collected simultaneously. Furthermore, the study will have advantages of quantitative and qualitative methods. The design has weaknesses too. It is not easy to transform data to enable integration of both data types during the analysis. Due to the inequality between different research approaches, unequal evidence may be generated, which can be disadvantageous when interpreting your findings.

 

Once a researcher has selected a mixed method research design, they have to decide the specific research methods and measures they will incorporate in the study. The decision made should consider the research questions, advantages and limitations of each research approach, and the study’s purpose, whether it is exploration, theory-testing, explanation, generalization, and theory-building.

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