Mixed Methods

The Unexpected in Mixed Methods Research

It is with great expectation that mounting attention is being given to mixed methods research (MMR). The utilization the-unexpectedof various methods – a combination of those that focus on the quantity of something (i.e., quantitative methods) along with ways to explore the quality of something (i.e., any number of qualitative methods and techniques) – holds the promise of “richer,” more encompassing research solutions that go beyond the one-sided mono-method design alternative. Indeed, MMR offers the potential of added value to both the sponsors as well as the consumers of research.

There are many different ways to configure a MMR study. As briefly mentioned in a January 2017 RDR post, there are various typologies or defined formats that can guide an MMR design; better still, however, are flexible approaches to MMR that enable the researcher to shift methods as warranted by incremental outcomes and fully integrate methods throughout the process.

Regardless of the roadmap the researcher follows, it is often the case that, at some point in time in a MMR study, a qualitative component will be conducted to help explain or give deeper understanding to survey data. This Read Full Text

Looking Back & Moving Forward: Two MMR Articles from 2016 & More to Come in 2017

In 2016, Research Design Review included two articles pertaining to mixed metmoving-forwardhods research (MMR), each highlighting the advantages of an approach that incorporates both quantitative and qualitative methods.  The first of these articles – “Life Is Meaningful, Or Is It?: The Road To Meaning In Survey Data” – appeared in February and discusses the idea that not all research questions – such as “the meaning of life” and other personal, sensitive, or complicated issues – are appropriately investigated by quantitative methods alone.  The other article – “Qualitative Analysis: The Biggest Obstacle to Enriching Survey Outcomes” – was published in March and deals with how the complexity and “messiness” of qualitative data analysis hampers “the wider use and acceptance of qualitative research among survey researchers,” and includes four suggestions towards fostering ways researchers may become more comfortable with qualitative and “more inclusive” in their methodology.

Because of the increasingly important role that qualitative and quantitative research play together in achieving credible and useful outcomes, Research Design Review will address MMR to a greater extent in 2017 (and beyond) than it has in the past.  For instance, one topic that is of utmost interest and import has to do with developing MMR studies and, specifically, the structure prescribed to mixed methods design by various typologies espoused by Creswell & Plano Clark (2011), Hanson, et al. (2005), Leech & Onwuegbuzie (2007), and others.  While these typologies serve the worthwhile purpose of helping to organize and thereby facilitate the doing of MMR, the how-to structure of these design schemes potentially binds the researcher within these design parameters while stifling a more broad-minded approach that thinks outside a typology, focusing instead on the optimal design to answer the research question(s).  Sharlene Hesse-Biber (2015) calls this the “’thing-ness’ problem,” meaning that the “formalized practice” of MMR has moved it “toward a more bounded concept” (p. 776) that has objectified mixed methods as a concrete “thing.”

This and other issues pertaining to MMR – along with other approaches and a host of research design considerations across qualitative and quantitative methods – will be the subject of future articles in Research Design Review.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hanson, W. E., Creswell, J. W., Clark, V. L. P., Petska, K. S., & Creswell, J. D. (2005). Mixed methods research designs in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 224–235.

Hesse-Biber, S. (2015). Mixed methods research: The “thing-ness” problem. Qualitative Health Research, 25(6), 775–788.

Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). A typology of mixed methods research designs. Quality & Quantity, 43(2), 265–275.

Image captured from: http://www.orlandoab.com/oab/

Life Is Meaningful, Or Is It?: The Road To Meaning In Survey Data

Samantha Heintzelman and Laura King, at the University of Missouri, published an article in American Psychologist in 2014 titled, “Life is Pretty Meaningful.” In this article the authors meaningful walkdiscuss their work that explores the answer to the “lofty” question “How meaningful is life, in general?” To do this, Heintzelman and King examined two broad categories of data sources: 1) large-scale surveys – six representative surveys conducted in the U.S. and a worldwide poll; and 2) articles published in the literature that explicitly report on research studies utilizing one of two established measures of meaning in life – the Purpose in Life Test (PIL) and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ). The large-scale surveys asked yes-and-no questions such as “Did you feel that your life has meaning [in the past 12 months]?” as well as agree-disagree rating scale items such as “My life has a real purpose.” Their analysis of these surveys concluded that “for most people, life is meaningful [and] comparatively few Read Full Text