Mixed Methods Research | Definition, Guide & Examples (2022)

Published on August 13, 2021 by Tegan George. Revised on July 21, 2022.

Mixed methods research combines elements of quantitative research and qualitative research in order to answer your research question. Mixed methods can help you gain a more complete picture than a standalone quantitative or qualitative study, as it integrates benefits of both methods.

Mixed methods research is often used in the behavioral, health, and social sciences, especially in multidisciplinary settings and complex situational or societal research.

  • To what extent does the frequency of traffic accidents (quantitative) reflect cyclist perceptions of road safety (qualitative) in Amsterdam?
  • How do student perceptions of their school environment (qualitative) relate to differences in test scores (quantitative)?
  • How do interviews about job satisfaction at Company X (qualitative) help explain year-over-year sales performance and other KPIs (quantitative)?
  • How can voter and non-voter beliefs about democracy (qualitative) help explain election turnout patterns (quantitative) in Town X?
  • How do average hospital salary measurements over time (quantitative) help to explain nurse testimonials about job satisfaction (qualitative)?

Table of contents

  1. When to use mixed methods research
  2. Mixed methods research designs
  3. Advantages of mixed methods research
  4. Disadvantages of mixed methods research
  5. Frequently asked questions

When to use mixed methods research

Mixed methods research may be the right choice if your research process suggests that quantitative or qualitative data alone will not sufficiently answer your research question. There are several common reasons for using mixed methods research:

  • Generalizability: Qualitative research usually has a smaller sample size, and thus is not generalizable. In mixed methods research, this comparative weakness is mitigated by the comparative strength of “large N,” externally valid quantitative research.
  • Contextualization: Mixing methods allows you to put findings in context and add richer detail to your conclusions. Using qualitative data to illustrate quantitative findings can help “put meat on the bones” of your analysis.
  • Credibility: Using different methods to collect data on the same subject can make your results more credible. If the qualitative and quantitative data converge, this strengthens the validity of your conclusions. This process is called triangulation.

As you formulate your research question, try to directly address how qualitative and quantitative methods will be combined in your study. If your research question can be sufficiently answered via standalone quantitative or qualitative analysis, a mixed methods approach may not be the right fit.

You want to research cycling safety in high-traffic areas of Amsterdam. If you’re interested in the frequency of accidents and where they occur, this could be a straightforward quantitative analysis. If you’re interested in the nature of complaints submitted by cyclists, or their perceptions about cycling in particular areas, then a qualitative approach may fit best.

But mixed methods might be a good choice if you want to meaningfully integrate both of these questions in one research study.

For example, you could use a mixed methods design to investigate whether areas perceived as dangerous have high accident rates, or to explore why specific areas are more dangerous for cyclists than others.

Keep in mind that mixed methods research doesn’t just mean collecting both types of data; you need to carefully consider the relationship between the two and how you’ll integrate them into coherent conclusions. Mixed methods can be very challenging to put into practice, so it’s a less common choice than standalone qualitative or qualitative research.

(Video) Mixed Methods Research: The Basics

Mixed methods research designs

There are different types of mixed methods research designs. The differences between them relate to the aim of the research, the timing of the data collection, and the importance given to each data type.

As you design your mixed methods study, also keep in mind:

  • Your research approach (inductive vs deductive)
  • Your research questions
  • What kind of data is already available for you to use
  • What kind of data you’re able to collect yourself.

Here are a few of the most common mixed methods designs.

Convergent parallel

In a convergent parallel design, you collect quantitative and qualitative data at the same time and analyze them separately. After both analyses are complete, compare your results to draw overall conclusions.

In your research on cycling safety in Amsterdam, you undertake both sides of your research simultaneously:
  • On the qualitative side, you analyze cyclist complaints via the city’s database and on social media to find out which areas are perceived as dangerous and why.
  • On the quantitative side, you analyze accident reports in the city’s database to find out how frequently accidents occur in different areas of the city.

When you finish your data collection and analysis, you then compare results and tie your findings together.

Embedded

In an embedded design, you collect and analyze both types of data at the same time, but within a larger quantitative or qualitative design. One type of data is secondary to the other.

This is a good approach to take if you have limited time or resources. You can use an embedded design to strengthen or supplement your conclusions from the primary type of research design.

As part of a quantitative study testing whether the number of cyclist complaints about an area correlates with the number of accidents, you could “embed” a series of qualitative interviews with cyclists who submitted complaints to further strengthen your argument. The bulk of your research remains quantitative.

Explanatory sequential

In an explanatory sequential design, your quantitative data collection and analysis occurs first, followed by qualitative data collection and analysis.

You should use this design if you think your qualitative data will explain and contextualize your quantitative findings.

You analyze the accident statistics first and draw preliminary conclusions about which areas are most dangerous. Based on these findings, you conduct interviews with cyclists in high-accident areas and analyze complaints qualitatively.

You can utilize the qualitative data to explain why accidents occur on specific roads, and take a deep dive into particular problem areas.

Exploratory sequential

In an exploratory sequential design, qualitative data collection and analysis occurs first, followed by quantitative data collection and analysis.

You can use this design to first explore initial questions and develop hypotheses. Then you can use the quantitative data to test or confirm your qualitative findings.

(Video) Qualitative vs Quantitative vs Mixed Methods Research: How To Choose Research Methodology

You first interview cyclists to develop an initial understanding of problem areas, and draw preliminary conclusions. Then you analyze accident statistics to test whether cyclist perceptions line up with where accidents occur.

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Advantages of mixed methods research

“Best of both worlds” analysis

Combining the two types of data means you benefit from both the detailed, contextualized insights of qualitative data and the generalizable, externally valid insights of quantitative data. The strengths of one type of data often mitigate the weaknesses of the other.

For example, solely quantitative studies often struggle to incorporate the lived experiences of your participants, so adding qualitative data deepens and enriches your quantitative results.

Solely qualitative studies are often not very generalizable, only reflecting the experiences of your participants, so adding quantitative data can validate your qualitative findings.

Method flexibility

Mixed methods are less tied to disciplines and established research paradigms. They offer more flexibility in designing your research, allowing you to combine aspects of different types of studies to distill the most informative results.

Mixed methods research can also combine theory generation and hypothesis testing within a single study, which is unusual for standalone qualitative or quantitative studies.

Disadvantages of mixed methods research

Workload

Mixed methods research is very labor-intensive. Collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing two types of data into one research product takes a lot of time and effort, and often involves interdisciplinary teams of researchers rather than individuals. For this reason, mixed methods research has the potential to cost much more than standalone studies.

Differing or conflicting results

If your analysis yields conflicting results, it can be very challenging to know how to interpret them in a mixed methods study. If the quantitative and qualitative results do not agree or you are concerned you may have confounding variables, it can be unclear how to proceed.

(Video) What is Mixed Methods Research

Due to the fact that quantitative and qualitative data take two vastly different forms, it can also be difficult to find ways to systematically compare the results.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between quantitative and qualitative methods?

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses. Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

What is mixed methods research?

In mixed methods research, you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question.

What is data collection?

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organizations.

What is triangulation in research?

Triangulation in research means using multiple datasets, methods, theories and/or investigators to address a research question. It’s a research strategy that can help you enhance the validity and credibility of your findings.

Triangulation is mainly used in qualitative research, but it’s also commonly applied in quantitative research. Mixed methods research always uses triangulation.

(Video) Mixed Methods Research, Characteristics and Mixed Methods Research Design 5Minutes Information Ch#57
What are the main types of mixed methods research designs?

These are four of the most common mixed methods designs:

  • Convergent parallel: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time and analyzed separately. After both analyses are complete, compare your results to draw overall conclusions.
  • Embedded: Quantitative and qualitative data are collected at the same time, but within a larger quantitative or qualitative design. One type of data is secondary to the other.
  • Explanatory sequential: Quantitative data is collected and analyzed first, followed by qualitative data. You can use this design if you think your qualitative data will explain and contextualize your quantitative findings.
  • Exploratory sequential: Qualitative data is collected and analyzed first, followed by quantitative data. You can use this design if you think the quantitative data will confirm or validate your qualitative findings.
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Mixed Methods Research | Definition, Guide & Examples (3)

(Video) Mixed Methods Research Question

Tegan George

Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students. A well-designed natural experiment is her favorite type of research, but she also loves qualitative methods of all varieties.

FAQs

What is mixed method research with example? ›

Mixed Methods Research is defined as a type of user research that combines qualitative and quantitative methods into a single study. Companies like Spotify, Airbnb and Lyft are using Mixed Methods Research to combine rich user insights with actionable statistics for deeper user insights.

What are mixed methods research methods? ›

A mixed methods study combines quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis in one study. Individually, these approaches can answer different questions, so combining them can provide you with more in-depth findings.

What is mixed method research PDF? ›

Mixed-methods research (MMR) is a research methodology that incorporates multiple methods to address research questions in an appropriate and principled manner (Bryman, 2012; Creswell, 2015; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011), which involves collecting, analysing, interpreting and reporting both qualitative and quantitative ...

What are the types of mixed methods? ›

The four major types of mixed methods designs are the Triangulation Design, the Embedded Design, the Explanatory Design, and the Exploratory Design. The following sections provide an overview of each of these designs: their use, procedures, common variants, and challenges.

What is a mixed methods research question? ›

Generally speaking, mixed methods research questions are questions that embed both a quantitative research question and a qualitative research question within the same question. That is, mixed methods research questions combine or mix both the quantitative and qualitative research questions.

What is mixed methods research PPT? ›

 Mixed methods research is a procedure for collecting, analyzing and “mixing” both quantitative and qualitative methods in a single study or a series of studies to understand a research problem.

Videos

1. Developing Mixed Methods Research with Dr. John W. Creswell
(SAGE Publishing)
2. Types of Mixed Methods Research Designs ~GM Lectures
(GM Lectures)
3. Mixed Methods Research part 1
(TomWestPhD)
4. Understanding Mixed Method (Creswell Approach)
(Just Learn)
5. Mixed Methods: An Example
(Office of Research & Doctoral Services)
6. Mixed Methods Research
(Dr. Lorin M. Mayo)

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