Chapter 14

Mixed Research:

Mixed Method and Mixed Model Research

 

(Reminder: Don’t forget to utilize the concept maps and study questions as you study this and the other chapters.)

 

This chapter is about mixed research. Mixed research is research in which quantitative and qualitative techniques are mixed in a single study. It is the third major research paradigm, adding an attractive alternative (when it is appropriate) to quantitative and qualitative research.

 

Proponents of mixed research typically adhere to the compatibility thesis as well as to the philosophy of pragmatism.

·        The compatibility thesis is the idea that quantitative and qualitative methods are compatible, that is, they can both be used in a single research study.

·        The philosophy of pragmatism says that researchers should use the approach or mixture of approaches that works the best in a real world situation. In short, what works is what is useful and should be used, regardless of any philosophical assumptions, paradigmatic assumptions, or any other type of assumptions. (Pragmatism was started by the great American philosophers Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey).

 

Today, proponents of mixed research attempt to use what is called the fundamental principle of mixed research.

·        According to this fundamental principle, the researcher should use a mixture or combination of methods that has complementary strengths and nonoverlapping weaknesses.

·        To aid you in applying this fundamental principle, we have provided tables that show the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative research and qualitative research. Here they are for your convenience:

 

 

 

Here is a list of the strengths and weaknesses of mixed research. Looking at the strengths, you will see where you want to go in planning a mixed research study.

 

The Research Continuum

Research can be viewed as falling along a research continuum with “monomethod” research placed on the far left side, “fully mixed” research placed on the far right side, and “partially mixed” located in the center. You should be able to take any given research study and place it somewhere on the continuum.

 

 

 

Types of Mixed Research Methods

      There are two major types of mixed research: they are mixed model research and mixed method research.

 

Mixed Model Research

In mixed model research quantitative and qualitative approaches are mixed within or across the stages of the research process.

 

Here are the two mixed model research subtypes: within-stage and across-stage mixed model research.

1.      In within-stage mixed model research, quantitative and qualitative approaches are mixed within one or more of the stages of research.

·  An example of within-stage mixed model research would be where you used a questionnaire during data collection that included both open-ended (i.e., qualitative) questions and closed-ended (i.e., quantitative) questions.

 

2.   In across-stage mixed model research, quantitative and qualitative

approaches are mixed across at least two of the stages of research.  Across-stage mixed model research designs are easily seen by examining designs 2 through 7 in Figure 14.2 (shown below):

 

 

·        Here is an example of across-stage mixed model research: A researcher wants to explore (qualitative objective) why people take on-line college courses. The researcher conducts open-ended interviews (qualitative data collection) asking them why they take on-line courses, and then the researcher quantifies the results by counting the number of times each type of response occurs (quantitative data analysis); the researcher also reports the responses as percentages and examines the relationships between sets of categories or variables through the use of contingency tables. Note that this is design 2 shown above in Figure 14.2.

 

Mixed Method Research

In mixed method research, a qualitative phase and a quantitative phase are included in the overall research study. It’s like including a quantitative mini-study and a qualitative mini-study in one overall research study.

 

Mixed method research designs are classified according to two major dimensions:

1.      Time order (i.e., concurrent versus sequential) and

2.      Paradigm emphasis (i.e., equal status versus dominant status).

 

Below, in Figure 14.3, you can see the specific mixed method designs that result from crossing time order and paradigm emphasis. It is a 2-by-2 matrix, and it includes nine specific mixed method designs. In order to understand the designs, you need to first understand the notation that is used.

·        QUAL and qual both stand for qualitative research.

·        QUAN and quan both stand for quantitative research.

·        Capital letters denote priority or increased weight.

·        Lowercase letters denote lower priority or weight.

·        A plus sign (+) indicated the concurrent collection of data.

·        An arrow () represents a sequential collection of data.

·        For example: qualQUAN is a dominant status, sequential design where, the overall study is primarily quantitative but it is preceded by a qualitative phase. Perhaps a researcher does an open-ended survey to find some important categories or variables that students say are important reasons for dropping out of on-line courses. Then in the quantitative phase the researcher does a quantitative study of predictors of dropping out, using quantitative statistical methods. In other words the quantitative phase was primary and the qualitative phase was supportive (and occurred first).

 

·        In order to use Figure 14.3, you need to ask yourself two questions:

1.      Do you want to operate largely within one dominant paradigm or not (i.e., do you want to use a dominant status design or an equal status design?), and

2.      Do you want to conduct the phases concurrently (i.e., at roughly the same time) or sequentially (i.e., one before the other)?

·        Your answers to these two questions will lead you to one of the designs in Figure 14.3.

·        Your goal is to pragmatically design a study that fits your particular needs and circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

·        It is important to understand that you are not limited to the mixed method or mixed model designs provided in this chapter. Our designs are provided to get you started. You should feel free to mix and match the designs into a design that best fits your needs. This includes designing studies that are a mix of mixed model and mixed method designs. You goal, always, is to answer you research question(s) and then to design a study that will help you to do that.

 

 

Stages of Mixed Research Process

There are eight stages in the mixed research process, as shown in Figure 14.4 (in the text, and here for your convenience).

 

 

 

It is important to note that although the steps in mixed research are numbered, researchers often follow these steps in different orders, depending on what particular needs and concerns arise or emerge during a particular research study.

·        For example, interpretation and validation of the data should be done throughout the data collection process.

 

I will very briefly comment on each of the eight (nonlinear) steps:

 

(1) Determine whether a mixed design is appropriate

·        Do you believe that you can best answer your research question(s) through the use of mixed research?

·        Do you believe that mixed research will offer you the best design for the amount and kind of evidence that you hope to obtain as you conduct your research study?

 

 

(2) Determine the rationale for using a mixed design

·        The five most important rationales or purposes for mixed research are shown below in Table 14.4:

 

 

·        You can see in Table 14.4, that mixed research can help researchers to a lot of important things as they attempt to understand the world.

 

 

(3) Select the mixed method or mixed model research design

·        We have already shown you, in this lecture, the basic mixed model designs and the basic mixed method designs.

·        Remember that you can also build more unique and/or more complex designs than the ones we have shown as you plan a study that will help you to answer your research question(s).

 

 

(4) Collect the data

·        Keep in mind the six major methods of data collection that we discussed in chapter 6: tests, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, observation, and secondary or already existing data (such as personal and official documents, physical data, and archived research data).

 

(5) Analyze the data

·        You can use the quantitative data analysis techniques (Chapters 15 and 16) and qualitative data analysis techniques (Chapter 17).

·        You might want to use the technique of quantitizing (i.e., converting qualitative data into quantitative data).

·        You might want to use the technique of qualitizing (i.e., converting quantitative data into qualitative data).

·        For more information on data analysis in mixed research, I highly recommend the following:

 

Onwuegbuzie, A.J., & Teddlie, C. (2003). A framework for analzing data in mixed methods research. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research (pp. 351-383). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 

(6) Validate the data

·        Data validation is something that should be done throughout your research study because if your data are not trustworthy then you study is not trustworthy. In Chapter 8 we discussed validity strategies used in quantitative research (pp. 228-248) and validity strategies used in qualitative research (pp. 249-256).

·        You should consider using quantitative and qualitative validity strategies in your study, and you should mix these in a way that best works for your mixed research study.

 

 

(7) Interpret the data

·        Data interpretation begins as soon as you enter the field or collect the first datum (datum is the singular of data), and data interpretation continues throughout your research study.

·        Remember that data interpretation and data validation go hand-in-hand; that is, you want to make sure that you continually use strategies that will provide valid data and help you to make defensible interpretations of your data.

·        A couple of strategies to use during data interpretation are reflexivity (i.e., which involves self-awareness and critical self-reflection by the researcher on his or her potential biases and predispositions as these may affect the research process and conclusions), and negative-case sampling (i.e., attempting to locate and examine cases that disconfirm your expectations and tentative explanations).

 

 

(8) Write the research report.

 

In conclusion, mixed research is the newest research paradigm in educational research. It offers much promise, and we expect to see much more methodological work and discussion about mixed research in the future as more researchers and book authors become aware of this important approach to empirical research.