Dr Babak Taheri is an Associate Professor in Marketing and Programmes Director in MSc International Marketing Management pathways at Heriot-Watt University. He has extensive experience in quantitative studies including: scale development and scale validation, structural equation modelling (SEM), path analysis using partial least squares (PLS), experimental design and intervention, multiple regression, testing for mediation and moderation).

Are you at that stage in your dissertation or research project where you are considering using mixed-methods? Here are ten hints on how to conduct mixed methods research:

  1. Mixed-methods approach is defined as collecting, analysing, interpreting quantitative and qualitative data in a single study. Qualitative and quantitative approaches provide different view or picture about a phenomenon. It is important to differentiate mixed-methods from multi-method in the social science studies. Researchers combine quantitative and qualitative methods in mixed-methods, whereas multi-method approach combines multiple types of quantitative or qualitative methods. Please, do not mix these two up!
  2. There are three main philosophical foundations underlying mixed-methods approach: pragmatists (i.e., what is the best way to answer a research question?); transformative (i.e., what works for who?); and dialectical (i.e., consistent approach with research aim and researchers’ beliefs). You may select each of these philosophical underpinning based on your main research question. It really depends on your philosophical stance, so think intensely before applying this research approach.
  3. There are key characteristics. You should provide a rational for the design of your study. You should include collecting quantitative and qualitative data. You should consider priority (i.e., qualitative or quantitative? Why?) and sequence (i.e., parallel or sequential?). You then match the data analysis to a design, and finally diagram the procedures.
  4. There are also five main purpose of mixed-methods design including: Triangulation (i.e., employing dissimilar methods to address the same research aim); complementarity (i.e., employing dissimilar methods to address the different parts of the same research aim); development (i.e., employing the findings of one selected method to notify the other method); initiation (i.e., initially interpreting contradictory findings but also employing different method to collect data to explore the inconsistency); and expansion (i.e., accumulating the breadth of a study by using different methods). So, follow these steps carefully.
  5. There are 6 main types of mixed-methods design including: (1) convergent parallel (i.e., both qualitative and quantitative data are collected and analysed separately. It is assumed to provide different types of information or confirm/deny each other.); (2) explanatory sequential (i.e., quantitative data analysis occurs before qualitative data analysis. Your qualitative data helps to explain your quantitative data.); (3) exploratory sequential (i.e., qualitative data analysis occurs before quantitative data analysis. You would see this more often in a measurement creation.); (4) advanced transformative (i.e., uses a theoretical-based framework to advance needs of underrepresented populations e.g., feminist, racial, gay perspectives. Here, qualitative and quantitative phases are encompassed in this framework.) ; (5) advanced embedded (i.e., one of the data collection and analysis phases occur before, during or after the primary method.). (6) multiphase design (i.e., it is complex. It considers series of phases or separate studies. ). So, what type can fit in your study?
  6. Mixed-methods approach helps researchers to enrich their findings; upsurge the breadth of the main research question/aim; testing/interpreting a theory and/or model; and seeking for different informants’ contributions. So, what is your angle here?
  7. The main ethical issue is that there is a danger of grouping all informants together in a general category that might stereotype them. There are also ethical issues in using either qualitative or quantitative types of data. So, please do consider ethical issues before conducting this approach.
  8. Analysing mixed-methods data depends on the researcher’s comfort. You can analyse data separately or concurrently or both. You can also write report/discussion as a one-or two-phase study or a multiple-phase study. So, you should think and read carefully about how to do this, for example, please read research by John W. Creswell.
  9. Disadvantages include: requires training in both methods; may be high in cost; may require researchers to work in multiple teams or projects; there is a personal bias; and you get different answers for the same phenomenon which could lead to the interpretation of different results at the qualitative and quantitative phases, and account for the possibility. So, think carefully!
  10. You may think, why all research problems are not addressed using mixed-methods approach? Do you really need to use approach? Do you have a good philosophical underpinning? Can you get enough participants to undertake this approach? Do you have the time and skills?
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Picture by annerimeintjes.