Mixed methods studies are as real as qualitative and quantitative studies. By the term “mixed methods”, it is easily deductible that this is a type of research method that combines qualitative with quantitative research strategies. This type of study originated from the field of Social Science then expanded into other fields such as Behavioral and Health Sciences as it provides two layers of data verification. This method is known by many names such as Multi-Method Research, Integrated Research, Triangulated Research, Multi-Methodology, and simply Mixed Research among others.
It may sound a little confusing at first because it is indeed difficult to imagine how quantitative data can be included to a qualitative research, much more the qualitative data into a quantitative research. Keep in mind that imagining it immediately after having a topic in mind can be a little difficult because almost always, one can only determine the need to combine research designs once data-gathering starts, and this is how you will know if a study utilized mixed methods.
- Closed-ended information (via quantitative design) and open-ended data (via qualitative design) are synergize together in the discussion of the results.
- The selection of respondents including the sample size are designed using both quantitative and qualitative criteria.
- There is a theoretical and conceptual frame that is either supported or refuted by both quantitative and qualitative data.
Note that Mixed Research is often qualitative in scope. For example, a researcher aims to determine the correlation between the students’ report card and the school’s characteristics. In this case the quantitative data, grades averages, will be interpreted in relation with the qualitative data, the characteristics of the school.
When to Used Mixed Methods
So, can you used qualitative and quantitative methods simultaneously? The answer is yes. The more important question is when and why should you use it. There are research topics that require the research to rummage through complex data-gathering especially if the research question is open-ended. As mentioned, mixed methods originated from Social Sciences which means as one study qualitative information, quantitative data must follow.
- For instance, you are studying a topic under Behavioral Science such as alcohol use among adolescents. Obviously, you will have to note down tangible effects of alcohol on a specific set of respondents aged 10 to 19. The whole world has millions of 10-19-year-olds, hence, you will have to set another criterion such as locale, gender, or family income. This is where qualitative and quantitative methods come in – you can formulate survey instruments to determine scales (e.g. Likert) or to choose from the pool randomly for focus groups or one on one interview.
- Reliance on qualitative data alone reveals a lot of loopholes in the end if the theoretical framework is not steady. If you find your research in need of numerical facts to back up the qualitative information, then opt for a convergent design so one data can validate the other. It is best to parallel the data-gathering so one can be altered to complement the other.
- The sequential design allows the researcher to explore quantitative information then opt for qualitative data to expound the first set of data.
Advantages of Mixed Methods Research
As discussed, mixed methods research basically provides two layers of data verification thereby providing a stronger proof for the research results whether it proves or disproves a hypothesis. Specifically:
1. Validity and Credibility. Mixed research studies can validate the quantitative data via the qualitative data gathered and vice versa before the combined information supports or refutes the hypothesis.
2. Completeness. Quantitative and qualitative research alone are also reliable because they are always well-designed, however, it is a no-brainer that mixing both well-planned research designs can give you a more comprehensive research design.
3. Flexibility. Utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research methods allows you to fully control your data-gathering instruments to become the optimal design depending on the type of data you need. This way, you can lessen the limitations in your study without compromising the time frame.
4. Divergence Identification. Mixed methods can give a bigger picture of the study, thus allows the researcher to see questions that still need answers as well as to tie up any loose ends.
5. Multiple Perspectives. Mixed research opens more windows for further research compared with quantitative and qualitative research alone, consequently supports scholarly interaction among students from various institutional affiliations.
6. Research Interaction. Mixed methods research allows research interlinking between topics address via qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods designs, thereby opening a bigger scope for present and future research studies.
7. Rich Data. Multiple data-gathering techniques mean multiple data sources which makes the well of information for any mixed methods research data automatically prolific of information.
Disadvantages of Mixed Methods Research
Every coin has two sides, so does the utilization of mixed methods research, but do not fret because these disadvantages are simply the requirements of a mixed methods data-gathering processes, and cannot over weigh the advantages. To note:
1. Doubled Reading Volume. Mixed methods research studies are labor intensive in all aspects including the review of related literature because one is required to cover both quantitative and qualitative studies related to the topic.
2. Complexity. The combination of both qualitative and quantitative research instruments and paradigms is inevitably more complex than single-piled questions.
3. Verification Requirement. Mixed methods research offer more data, hence it requires the researcher to level the data verification process by communicating with more field experts. Again, this is what makes mixed methods research labor intensive, but arguably, it is a minimal price to pay for a well-rounded research.
Just because mixed methods research design has been proven to be better in many ways than quantitative and qualitative studies alone does not mean that you should push your topic to accommodate the design, even if it does not match the necessary data. To be sure, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need to have quantitative results to support my qualitative data?
- Will qualitative data help justify my quantitative data?
- Will quantitative data help justify my qualitative data?
You will not be able to answer any of these questions until you finally start gathering information – whichever comes first: qualitative or quantitative. Once established that one needs the other, then it is safe to say that it is best to utilized mixed methods. Most importantly, trust your instincts and your research adviser. If you feel like there is something wrong with the research process, then there is indeed something wrong. Find it, fix it. This does not apply to mixed methods research alone, but to any kind of academic paper.
So, can you use quantitative and qualitative methods simultaneously? Yes. Mixed methods research can provide answers that the other modalities cannot, allows stronger justifications to results discussion, and gives chance to other researchers to pursue correlated studies.