Mixed Methods Research: The Third Paradigm - From Mixed-Methods Research to a Journal Article - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Mixed Methods Research: The Third Paradigm
From Mixed-Methods Research to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types

For more than a century, the advocates of quantitative and qualitative research paradigms have engaged in an ardent dispute. The last several decades have witnessed intense and sustained debates about quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Unfortunately, this can create a divide between quantitative and qualitative researchers, even causing them to see themselves as being in competition with each other (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). These researchers’ debates concentrate on the differences between quantitative and qualitative methodologies instead of the similarities (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005). Tashakkori and Creswell (2007) define mixed methods as “…research in which the investigator collects and analyzes data, integrates the findings, and draws inferences using both qualitative and quantitative approaches or methods in a single study or a program of inquiry” (p. 4). In order to achieve this, researchers need to fulfill at least six roles, as highlighted in Table 9.1.

Table 9.1

Role of the mixed methods researcher

Collects and analyzes persuasively and rigorously both qualitative and quantitative data (based on research questions);

Mixes (or integrates or links) the two forms of data concurrently by combining them (or merging them), sequentially by having one build on the other, or embedding one within the other;

Gives priority to one or to both forms of data (in terms of what the research emphasizes);

Uses these procedures in a single study or in multiple phases of a program of study;

Frames these procedures within philosophical worldviews and theoretical lenses; and

Combines the procedures into specific research designs that direct the plan for conducting the study (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011, p. 2)

As with all decisions about selection of a research method, writers of mixed methods research reports need to provide a rationale for their decision to combine qualitative and quantitative approaches within the same study. To determine whether mixed methods are justified, try answering the five questions that follow.

Will the use of mixed methods…






Although both quantitative and qualitative methodologies are used together in mixed methods research, each method retains its distinctive role in the inquiry. O’Cathain, Murphy, and Nicholl (2007a) explain these roles in a pragmatic way (see Table 9.2).

Table 9.2

Roles of different methods within a mixed method study




1. Defining the research question

A qualitative method can generate a hypothesis for a quantitative method to test, establish the theoretical framework for the quantitative method, or help conceptualize the whole study

2. Address the range of research questions

Understanding how interventions work in the real world

A complex intervention may operate differently in practice from the original intention and qualitative research can address how an intervention is used in practice while quantitative research is used to measure outcomes. The strength of qualitative research to assess processes has been noted in social research

Getting a range of perspectives

Qualitative research can help researchers to gain access to the views of participants while quantitative research allows researchers to explore their own agenda

3. Designing the study

Determining the sample

A quantitative method can facilitate the sampling strategy for a qualitative method; for example, a survey can distinguish representative from non-representative cases

Improving the conduct of a method

When designing a trial, qualitative research may help to design appropriate recruitment strategies and information. This could be used for other quantitative methods such as surveys

Designing study instruments

A qualitative method can help to design good survey instruments, and aid scale construction from them. In the context of evaluation, it can identify outcomes important to different stakeholders and include them within instruments

Developing or optimizing interventions

When evaluating an intervention like a service, qualitative methods can help to develop the intervention develop an understanding of how the intervention works and who it might be most effective for, and indicate why the intervention has not worked

4. Analysis

The results from one method can affect the analysis of the other method, or qualitative and quantitative data can be combined for further understanding. For example, qualitative data can be ’quantitized’, that is, numerically coded for analysis with the quantitative data

5. Making use of the findings

Interpreting the findings

Each method can provide different aspects of a phenomenon. A qualitative method can explain factors underlying relationships in a quantitative study, confirm or contradict survey findings, interpret statistical relationships, explore puzzling responses or results, or offer case study illustrations. It may change the interpretation of findings, for example, urging that a treatment is not rejected as ineffective simply because it was not used, but finding a way of it being used so that it might be effective. In the context of evaluation, qualitative methods can describe the context in which the study operates, in particular what is going on with controls, thus aiding interpretation

Determining generalizability

A quantitative method can help to generalize a qualitative study, for example a survey can situate the context of case studies


Qualitative methods can be used to consider the results of a study and their application within a real world context, drawing on pluralistic views of different stakeholders

Source: This article is available from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/7/85

© 2007 O’Cathain et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Recently, researchers have been conducting and writing articles that combine both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies within the same study. Such a merger of methodologies meets the criteria for the mixed methods research paradigm (Creswell & Tashakkori, 2007; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) recommend that readers examine numerous mixed methods research articles to determine how researchers use different methodologies (e.g., quantitative, qualitative) in their studies. An examination of published mixed methods research studies in journal articles can provide a better understanding of this methodology. The four examples below all have at least one quantitative methodology (intended to collect numbers) and one qualitative methodology (intended to collect words), where neither methodology is essentially connected to any specific inquiry paradigm (Greene, Caracelli, & Graham 1989).

· Example 1: Knaggs, Sondergeold, and Schardt (2015) examined how a college preparatory program contributed to college enrollment and perseverance, and students’ attitudes in the program. The researchers mixed quantitative and qualitative data. For the quantitative data, they used college data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) database. For the qualitative data, they used focus group interview questions that were open-ended and semistructured.

· Example 2: McCrudden, Magliano, and Schraw (2010) examined how the relevance of instructions influenced readers’ personal reading intentions, reading goals, text processing, and memory for text. They randomly assigned undergraduates to one of three pre-reading instructional conditions and then asked them to read for understanding. They used corresponding data sets. The quantitative data provided differences in reading time and recall while the qualitative data explained why the differences occurred.

· Example 3: Kallemeyn, Schiazza, Ryan, Peters, and Johnson (2013) examined how to engage history teachers in effective professional development. They described teachers’ classroom practices in relation to (1) historical content and skills, (2) teachers’ involvement in professional development, and (3) their schooling contexts. For the qualitative data, they integrated case studies and final interviews. For the quantitative data, they administered a survey. The data from the initial case study interviews provided information to develop survey items.

· Example 4: Hayden and Chiu (2015) examined the development of elementary preservice teachers’ reflective practices as they solved problems that they encountered while teaching in a reading clinic. Using exploratory qualitative analysis they collected and analyzed the preservice teachers’ written reflections to identify relationships among problem exploration, teaching adaptations, and problem resolution. Then they used confirmatory quantitative analysis to determine any significant relationships.

Note how these projects combined quantitative and qualitative methodologies to:

· Evaluate a strategy or program in practice (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005)

· Examine social and behavioral processes that are difficult to study when using one type of methodology (either quantitative or qualitative) in isolation

· Integrate multiple perspectives and

· Address complex research questions

Effective combinations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies capitalizes on the strengths of each and offers better ways to address the research questions (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, & Turner 2007).

Online Tool

For an introduction to research designs that use both quantitative and qualitative approaches, check out the Research Rundowns blog, Mixed Methods Research Designs, posted at: https://researchrundowns.wordpress.com/mixed/mixed-methods-research-designs/.