The Mixed Methods Research Designs

Subject: Sciences
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Study level: PhD

Cresewell (2011, p. 430) defines mixed methods research design as “a procedure for collecting, analyzing, and ‘mixing’ both qualitative and quantitative research methods in a single study so as to understand a research problem”. In terms of rationale, mixed methods research design has several characteristics. First, it calls for the testing of the findings of the study in the first phase. As such, results of the first phase must be explained in detail. Secondly, this approach calls for the provision of extended explanation of the study findings beyond the realms of quantitative and qualitative explanations. Third, this research design calls for the collection of both numeric and text data. When choosing mixed method research design, a researcher must first determine the degree of interaction between qualitative and quantitative strands. In addition, the researcher must determine where and how to mix these strands.

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There are four major types of mixed methods research designs. The first main type of mixed method design is convergent parallel design. In this approach, the investigator “collects qualitative and quantitative data concurrently”. After that, he or she conducts data analysis separately. Thereafter, during data interpretation and analysis, the researcher mixes the two sources of data (qualitative and quantitative). Researchers who employ this type of design aim at extracting as much information as possible from quantitative and qualitative data sources. In addition, they use this design to compare varied levels within a system. This type of design is the most suitable when the researcher needs to collect both qualitative and quantitative data in one visit to the field of study. In addition, this research design becomes relevant when both qualitative and quantitative types of data are of indispensable significance (Ryan, 2006). In order to employ this design, the researcher must be conversant with both qualitative and quantitative methods of research. As such, the researcher must be able to cope up with the extensive data collection activities that are common in this type of research design. This can be solved by working as a team. According to Fischler (2012, p.23), convergent parallel design has three main strengths: “it is intuitive, efficient, and lends itself to teams”.

The second major type is the explanatory sequential design, whose main purposes are “to use qualitative data so as to explain quantitative results that need further exploration and to use quantitative results to purposefully select best participants for qualitative study” (Fischler, 2012, p.23). When a researcher employs this research design, he or she begins by collecting and analyzing quantitative data. The results collected using quantitative approach form the basis for the collection of the second phase of data using qualitative approach. As such, the researcher uses the quantitative data collected in the first phase, to plan for the second phase of the research process. Results collected in the first phase are exceptionally significant when drafting research questions required in the second phase. In addition, they are of significant help during sampling and data collection in the second phase of the study. This type of design is relevant when the researcher and the research question have a quantitative orientation. It is used when important variables are known and when instruments required for this study are available. In addition, respondents must be available for the two phases of the study. Thus, “the researcher must have enough time to conduct both phases of the study” (Fischler, 2012, p.23). Furthermore, this research design is important when new questions emerge from the results of the first phase. Fischler (2012, p.34) argues that the strengths of this type of design are as follows: “it lends itself to emergent approaches; final report can be written in two phases; it is straight forward to implement in two phases and it is appealing to quantitative researchers”.

The third category is the embedded design. In this type of design, the investigator “collects and analyzes qualitative and quantitative data within a quantitative research design, qualitative research design, or research procedure” (Fischler, 2012, p.35). In addition, “the collection and analysis of secondary set of data occurs before, during, and/or after the primary methods” (Fischler, 2012, p.35). This method is exceptionally important when the researcher wants to address various questions using different methods. In addition, this type of research design is useful when the researcher wants to enhance an experiment. The enhancement is often achieved by upgrading recruitment and participation procedures. This method has various strengths. First, it requires fewer resources and a shorter timeframe. Secondly, this type of research design is adaptable to team approach. Thirdly, it suits those who are used to traditional designs. Fourth, it gives the researcher the freedom to publish results separately.

The fourth type is the exploratory sequential design. This type of research is the exact opposite of explanatory research. Whereas explanatory research begins by collecting and analyzing quantitative data in the first phase, this type of research begins by collecting and analyzing qualitative data in the first phase (Ryan, 2006). Quantitative data collection is employed in phase two of the research process. As such, the researcher uses the qualitative data collected in the first phase to plan for the second phase of the study, which employs quantitative data collection method. Data from phase one is used to specific research questions and variables of the second phase of the research process. In addition, data from phase one is used to develop a typology or instruments that are used in the second phase of the study. This type of design is exceptionally significant when variables, theories and hypotheses are unknown (Fischler, 2012). Exploratory sequential design is also used when the researcher wants to develop an instrument or typology. It is the most suitable type of design when the investigator wants to evaluate whether qualitative subject matters generalize to a population (Holloway, 2005). This type of design has several strengths. First, it is easy to design, implement and report. Second, it offers an excellent opportunity to researcher to synthesize a product such as an instrument. Third, it is flexible to emergent approaches. Fifth, the quantitative segment helps quantitative oriented audiences adapt to qualitative approaches.

In conclusion, this paper has noted that mixed methods research design refers to “a procedure for collecting, analyzing, and mixing both qualitative and quantitative research methods in a single study so as to understand a research problem” (Cresewell, 2011, p. 430). Mixed methods research design calls for the testing of the findings of the study in the first phase. As such, results of the first phase must be explained in detail. Secondly, this approach calls for the provision of extended explanation of the study findings beyond the realms of quantitative and qualitative explanations. Third, this research design calls for the collection of both numeric and text data. There are four major types of mixed methods research designs namely convergent parallel design, exploratory sequential design, embedded design, and explanatory sequential design.

References

Cresewell, J. (2011). Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. New York: Pearson.

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Fischler, A. (2012). Mixed Methods. Web.

Holloway, I. (2005). Qualitative Research In Health Care. New York: McGraw-Hill International.

Ryan, P. (2006). Modern Experimental Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons.