In physical sciences seldom there is any need to have a mixed methods approach to solving the problems, most research done in the physical sciences utilizes quantitative research approach. In social and behavioral sciences the need for using both quantitative and qualitative methods was always there. The rise of mixed methods research design solved the problem to a greater extent.
What is a mixed methods research design?
The mixed methods research design utilizes the benefits of both the quantitative research design as well as the qualitative research design. The research methodology is designed in such a way that the researcher uses one technique for one purpose and the other technique for the other purpose in the research. Sometimes researchers prefer to use both quantitative and the qualitative research techniques side-by-side and they are so intermingled that it is difficult to separate them. According to Creswell, J., mixed methods research design is all about collecting, analyzing, and “mixing” both quantitative and qualitative research and methods in a single study to understand a research problem. To utilize this design effectively, you must understand both quantitative and qualitative research.
History of mixed methods research design
As mixed methods research is fairly a new research approach so its history is also not that old. Here we will discuss the recent history of the mixed methods research. The researchers who believed in the positivist approach to research denied the other approaches like constructivist approach to research and vice versa. Johnson et al., in their Journal of Mixed Methods Research stated that a debate about singular or universal truths or approaches to viewing the world (Socrates, Plato), versus multiple or relative truths (the Sophists such as Protagoras and Gorgias), versus balances or mixtures of the extremes (Aristotle’s “golden mean” or principle of balance, moderate skepticism, Cicero, Sextus Empiricus), go back, at least, to ancient Western philosophy, and the spirit of these debates lives today in the different views of the three major approaches to social research. According to Plato, Protagoras said that “man is the measure of all things,” and in many ways the history of Western philosophy still is debating Protagoras and the other Sophists. This debate continues to affect how we view knowledge, what we look for, what we expect to find, and how we believe we are to go about finding and justifying “knowledge.”
The need for mixed methods research emerged from the need of a mixed approach in which both the quantitative and the qualitative approach can benefit the researchers in finding answers to their research questions. In social, behavioral and human sciences the mixed methods research approach yield several benefits to the researchers.
Mixed methods research methodology
- Does the mixed methods research need to be conducted in one phase or in two separate phases? In some research, the researcher uses the qualitative research design to prepare a feasibility report and the actual research is then conducted using the quantitative research design.
- Research questions: which research questions need to be solved using quantitative techniques and which should be solved using qualitative techniques. Should all the questions need to be solved using both techniques simultaneously? This is the first step to understanding which mixed methods approach you are going to follow in your research.
- What quantitative tools you should use in your research, what qualitative tools should also be used for example interview etc?
- Format data collection instrument for both methods: prepare questions and their sequence.
- How to collect data, should both techniques use in one or they should be used separately?
- How to analyze data, combined or separately?
- Should results be demonstrated combined or vice versa?
These are some major steps in conducting mixed-methods research, there might be several other steps in between these steps. The researcher need not overlook any smallest step as it can ruin the whole research.
Types of mixed methods research design
There can be three different types of mixed methods research design:
- A quantitative research design that utilizes qualitative research instruments to supplement the research.
- A qualitative research design that utilizes quantitative research instruments to supplement the research
- A pure mixed method research design that utilized both research instruments simultaneously.
It should be noted that a quantitative research instrument can utilize a qualitative research instrument to improve the results but to use a quantitative research instrument in a qualitative research design is difficult. Quantitative research uses positivist paradigm while the qualitative research design uses constructivist paradigm, both paradigms have a different approach to research. Combining both paradigms and mixing them can only be done by experienced researchers.
Why use mixed methods research design?
- To bring more clarity and depth to the research design by using both qualitative and quantitative techniques
- To understand the research problem in a better manner by introducing qualitative techniques
- To avoid biases and subjectivity by introducing the quantitative techniques in the social science research
- To develop new research designs and check their feasibility in social sciences
When to use mixed methods research design
- When using mixed methods can improve the understanding of the research problem to you as well as to the audience who is going to read your research
- Some researchers only use this method when there is no other option, due to a need and not out of curiosity
- When mixed methods research design can be done because of enough time and other resources
- As mixed methods research design is time consuming, therefore, such research design is more suitable for basic research where the researcher can have plenty of time to conduct it.
Drawbacks of using mixed methods research design
- May require lots of time to conduct the mixed methods research due to using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.
- Requires more skill on the part of the researcher, as he has to use the both methods.
- Experienced researchers can only put their hands in mixed methods research designs, because of the expertise needed.
- More staff is required to conduct qualitative observations or interviews and quantitative questionnaires or experiments.
- A mixed methods research can result in a disaster if does not undertake in a proper manner. It should be kept in mind that any research that is not undertaken in a proper manner can be a disaster, so it’s not only the mixed methods research.
- The quantitative paradigm of research is totally different from qualitative paradigm and, thus their combination can become odd. A comprehensive understanding of the both paradigm is necessary before attempting to combine them.
Examples of mixed methods research tools
The researcher is going to use a multi methodology research instrument to conduct a mixed methods research. Multi methodology or multimethod research includes the use of more than one method of data collection or research in a research study or set of related studies and mixed methods research is more specific in that it includes the mixing of qualitative and quantitative data, methods, methodologies, and/or paradigms in a research study or set of related studies.
- Structured close-ended questionnaire combined with unstructured interviews
- Structured close-ended questionnaire combined with non-participant observation
- Creswell, J. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
- Johnson, R. B. et al., Journal of Mixed Methods Research, Sage Publications, 2007; 1; 112 DOI: 10.1177/1558689806298224, Viewed on sagepub.com
- Andres, Lesley (2012). Designing and Doing Survey Research. London: Sage. Survey research from a mixed methods perspective.