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Explainer: ‘Mixed Methods’ gaining ground among researchers

14 February 2017 - BY Conversations at QSR International

There is no one-size fits all definition of mixed methods, here at QSR International we believe in starting a living and breathing discussion about what mixed-methods means to us and how it can evolve and progress as society does.   

The use of “mixed methods” research models has become increasingly more popular over the past decade, as researchers across a range of disciplines have recognized the value and enhanced insights the process can bring to a study’s results.

By definition, “mixed methods” refers to a methodology involving collecting, analyzing and integrating both quantitative and qualitative research findings. 

First gaining traction in the social sciences, this type of research is now expanding into other fields such as health, psychology and community engagement. In addition, this emerging methodology is becoming popular with business and marketing researchers, who have realized its potential for identifying and helping define consumer trends and thought processes. 

Defining mixed methods research

The methodology does exactly as the name implies; the process mixes research methods by integrating quantitative and qualitative data within a single research project. The foundation behind this method is the belief that through integration, a more complete utilization of data can be accomplished as opposed to separate quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Because it is perceived as providing a more thorough examination of data from multiple sources, this process is often seen as an ideal technique to assess complicated research topics.

There are several core characteristics that define a well-designed study of this kind, including: 

  1. Ability to collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data together. 
  2. The use of time-tested rigorous procedures in collecting and analyzing data appropriate to each method’s tradition, such as ensuring the appropriate sample size for quantitative and qualitative analysis. 
  3. Integrating the data during data collection, analysis, or discussion. 
  4. Using procedures that implement qualitative and quantitative components either concurrently or sequentially, with the same sample or with different samples. 
  5. Framing the procedures within philosophical/theoretical models of research, such as within a social constructionist model that seeks to understand multiple perspectives on a single issue (i.e., examining an issue from multiple viewpoints or stakeholders perspectives).

Why use an integrated research approach?

In the last decade, mixed methods procedures have been developed and refined to suit a wide variety of research purposes. Today, these procedures are used to examine a wide variety of public health concerns, medical issues and social issues. However, more and more businesses are engaging mixed methods research to identify marketing strategies and tactics and analyze shifting consumer attitudes.

Many researchers believe that using this approach provides several advantages, including: 

  • Integrated data comparisons can provide clearer results: Mixed methods procedures can be helpful in uncovering contradictions between quantitative results and qualitative findings. 
  • Reflects participants’ point of view. In this process, study participants are given a stronger voice, ensuring that the study findings are grounded in participants’ experiences. 
  • Provides increased flexibility. The process allows for great flexibility and is adaptable to many different study structures, allowing more data to be uncovered than can be obtained using only one type of research. 
  • Collects rich, comprehensive data. The process mimics the way individuals naturally collect information, by integrating quantitative and qualitative data. The result is a clearer, more well-rounded and detailed examination of an issue.

Learn more about how QSR’s NVivo can help facilitate this type of research by viewing the below video: “Mixed Methods Analysis with NVivo 11.”

Conversations at QSR International is a regular column where different staff members discuss the issues that resonate with them.