Researchers often conduct various types of research in the same study to investigate the different variables in a research project. This method of mixed methods research is used widely in all disciplines to capitalize on the unique advantages of each method and achieve an exhaustive study.
Mixed methods research
Mixed methods research incorporates qualitative and quantitative research elements to propose a solution for a research problem. When used together, quantitative and qualitative methods provide more comprehensive findings than the use of each method alone.1
Qualitative methods are used to study natural phenomena using observations, interviews, and analysis of text data. Quantitative research involves numerical analysis of quantifiable variables. Mixed methods research is often used in research cases with various variables and data sets such as social and behavioral sciences.2
When to use mixed methods research
Mixed methods research is best used when your research displays variables with both qualitative and quantitative characteristics. You can use mixed methods research to formulate generalizable findings, often limited by a standalone quantitative approach.3
In addition, using mixed methods research lends credibility to your research findings. By showing how you applied different research methods, your work can hold up under scrutiny since you have covered several aspects. Highlight how your research question will deploy quantitative and qualitative techniques and why it is necessary to use both through mixed methods research.
Maybe you want to study road safety on a particular road. You can take a purely quantitative approach if your main metric is the daily average number of road accidents and in which sections they happen. For a qualitative study, you can interview drivers on their thoughts on driving in certain road sections.
A mixed methods research approach seems like the most appropriate way to answer both questions to uncover deeper insights. It can find cause and effect relationships between qualitative and quantitative variables in a detailed study.
For this research problem, a mixed methods research framework may explore whether the sections drivers deem to be more hazardous report more accidents. Note that mixed methods research doesn’t just imply qualitative and quantitative data collection. Both methods should complement each other to answer a common research problem.
Types of mixed methods research designs
There are various mixed methods research designs. The appropriate mixed methods research design choice depends on the research objective, the duration of data collection, and other factors.
We will discuss some designs of mixed methods research. They are used in different contexts to answer different kinds of research problems.
In this type of mixed research, you first collect and analyze quantitative data. This is followed by gathering and analyzing qualitative data. This approach best applies to a research problem where researchers believe the qualitative data will explain the quantitative analysis.4
In this inverse approach, researchers examine qualitative data points and then collect and analyze quantitative data sets.
This approach can be used to formulate research problems and hypotheses. After developing a valid hypothesis, quantitative methods are used to test or validate the qualitative conclusions.5
In a parallel approach, researchers collect both quantitative and qualitative data simultaneously. The findings are analyzed separately, then their respective conclusions are compared to give a general conclusion.6
The nested approach is also known as the embedded method. In this design, both qualitative and quantitative data are collected concurrently. However, one type of data takes precedence over the other.
Researchers usually adopt a nested approach when there are time restrictions or scarce resources. The nested design is used to support the findings of the main research design.7
Advantages of mixed methods research
A win-win scenario – Using both qualitative and quantitative methods takes advantage of the benefits of both research methods. A mixed approach ensures in-depth and generalizable findings.
Versatility in research – Mixed research methods offer more flexibility when formulating research problems. They let researchers break down a research problem into its constituent qualitative and quantitative elements for more comprehensive conclusions.
Expanding the scope of the study – Researchers can expand the subject matter of a research problem using a mixed framework. This often leads to more discoveries beyond the initial research problem.
Disadvantages of mixed methods research
Mismatch of conclusions – Some research designs, such as the parallel design, may yield contrasting results. This poses the problem of generalization as the findings have no similarities.
Lack of sufficient resources – Most research undertakings rely on external funding. Collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data may consume a lot of time and resources.
Skill gaps – A mixed approach requires skilled qualitative and quantitative analysts. The quantitative field currently has a shortage of skilled personnel due to the complex nature of the quantitative methods available.8
Mixed methods research involves qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods. There are different designs under this approach for various research problems.
A mixed approach delivers the best results when the research problem has qualitative and quantitative aspects. Using both methods offers more granular-level insights.
Qualitative is a text analysis of data collected from observation and questionnaires. Quantitative research is a numerical method of collecting and analyzing figures associated with certain research variables.
The main forms of mixed research designs are embedded, parallel, explanatory sequential, and exploratory sequential. They are used in different research proposals to answer research problems.
1 Community Engagement Program. “Mixed Methods Research.” Accessed August 24, 2022, https://catalyst.harvard.edu/community-engagement/mmr/.
2 Delve. “Qualitative Quantitative Mixed Methods.” Accessed August 24, 2022. https://delvetool.com/blog/mixedmethods.
3 Molina-Azorin, Jose F.. “Mixed methods research: An opportunity to improve our studies and our research skills.” European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25, no. 2 (May 2016): 37-38. 10.1016/j.redeen.2016.05.001.
4 Gesser-Edelsburg, Janat, Ricky Cohen, Nour Abed Elhadi Shahbari, and Rana Hijazi. “A mixed-methods sequential explanatory design comparison between COVID-19 infection control guidelines’ applicability and their protective value as perceived by Israeli healthcare workers, and healthcare executives’ response.” Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control. September 04, 2020. https://aricjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13756-020-00812-8.
5 Embraced Wisdom Resource Group. “Mixed Methods Explanatory Sequential Design.” Accessed August 24, 2022. 6:53, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlol_bG6kAQ.
6 Edmonds, W. Alex, and Thomas D. Kennedy. “Chapter 15: Convergent-Parallel Approach.” In An Applied Guide to Research Designs: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods, 2nd ed., 181-188. SAGE Publications inc., 2017. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781071802779.n15.
7 Khan, Attia, and Nazilla Khanlou. “Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, Resilience and Mental Health Among Immigrant and Canadian-Born Pakistani Youth.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 19. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Concurrent-embedded-mixed-methods-research-design_fig1_334982335.
8 UK Health Security Agency. “Mixed methods study.” Gov.uk. June 02, 2020. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/mixed-methods-study.