Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mixed Methods

To some extent, mixed methods is a design that includes utilizing quantitative and quantitative methods together in one research project, but it is not simply a half and half recipe of a little of one and some of the other. Over its short history, mixed methods has become known as a valuable alternative to choosing qualitative or quantitative methods (Dures, Rumsey, Morris, & Gleeson, 2011). Debate continues, however, on the characteristics of this approach, although it does include qualitative and quantitative procedures within one study (Creswell & Tashakkori, 2007).

Possibly one of the greatest barriers to mixed methods research is the dominance of more traditional methods, with partiality often given to quantitative methods (Dures et al., 2011). Further, there exists a paucity of guidance for researchers who choose mixed methods over qualitative or quantitative designs (Dures et al., 2011). While quantitative methods ordinarily aim to predict, measure, and correlate, qualitative methods seek to explore and gain insight. Mixed methods utilizes a combination of the two, and aims to explore phenomena, identify relationships and determine correlations between the phenomena being studied.

There is some sense to the idea that mixed methods is a challenge because of conflicting underlying assumptions held by the two established, and often opposing methods. The foundational ontologies and epistemologies for qualitative and quantitative study may be perceived as opposing or even antagonistic; qualitative with its wide-angle lens, and quantitative with its narrow one; qualitative perceiving human behavior as dynamic and personal, quantitative explaining it as regular and predictable (Lichtman, 2006). There are other valid reasons for keeping each of the traditional methods separate: one uses numbers, the other words; one relies on meaning while the other emphasizes behavior; deductive versus inductive; and subjectivity against objectivity (Lichtman, 2006). All of these are valid thoughts about the unnatural mixing of methods (Dures, et al., 2011).

Regardless of the issues that make it seem as if it is an effort to mix water with oil, the mixed methods approach provides a realistic approach to studying the social sciences: human reality is not one or the other, and there is not one exclusive way of understanding human nature, and one dimension of the social world is not more valuable or salient than another. Mixed methods is a holistic way of approaching human nature. Perhaps more researchers are choosing mixed methods because it is pragmatic in that researchers are not constrained by one system or another, and they can utilize the assumptions of either traditional method (Creswell, 2009).

Similar to partisanship in politics, qualitative and quantitative approaches must remain within certain boundaries that define them, they must perceive reality in a way that is characteristic to the approach. Mixed methods can utilize what works for a particular inquiry (Creswell, 2009; Dures et al., 2011). In effect, utilizing mixed methods allows the researcher to see reality as it is. Pragmatic is an appropriate word to describe the mixing of methods - down-to-earth, realistic, and commonsensical. Health psychology is a proving ground for mixed methods. Because of the relationship between this field and medical science, researchers may opt for quantitative designs. Mixed methods, however, offers researchers a perspective that encompasses the facts and figures of illness (for example) along with the human experiences of that illness. Research that may benefit from mixed methods are inquiries that make predictions about disease progression as well as the human experience in the process, or to generalize, research that makes deductions and continues to induct or generate meaning from those deductions.

In mixed methods, the research questions drive the use of the approach (Dures et al., 2011). If the research question asks about the relationship between variables, and in addition asks about the human experience when this relationship occurs, the use of mixed methods would be necessary because qualitative or quantitative methods could not fully address both research questions (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009).


Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Dures, E., Rumsey, N., Morris, M., & Gleeson, K. (2011). Mixed Methods in Health Psychology: Theoretical and Practical Considerations of the Third Paradigm. Journal of Health Psychology, 16(2), 332-341. doi: 10.1177/1359105310377537

Laureate Education, Inc. (2009) Mixed Methods: An Example. [Transcript] Baltimore: Author.

Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Onwuegbuzie, A., & Leech, N. L. (2005). On becoming a pragmatic researcher: The importance of combining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(5), 375–387.

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