Chapter 3: Developing a Research Question
Increasingly, researchers combine both approaches, and take a mixed methods approach. Mixed methods research represents more of an approach to examining a research problem than a methodology. Mixed methods are characterized by a focus on research problems that require:
- an examination of real-life contextual understandings, multi-level perspectives, and cultural influences;
- an intentional application of rigorous quantitative research assessing magnitude and frequency of constructs, and rigorous qualitative research exploring the meaning and understanding of the constructs; and
- an objective of drawing on the strengths of quantitative and qualitative data gathering techniques to formulate a holistic interpretive framework for generating possible solutions or new understandings of the problem. (from Adjei, n.d.)
Researchers who favour mixed methods believe that the approach can be the most effective at getting to “the truth” or at least “a truth.” However, some argue against mixing these approaches. They contend that the fundamentally different beliefs about knowledge and its creation or discovery with the various approaches hampers one’s ability to get at the truth. However, some of the most highly regarded social scientific investigations combine approaches in an effort to gain the most complete understanding of their topic possible. Using a combination of multiple and different research strategies is called triangulation.
Adding a few open-ended questions (that collect qualitative data) to a quantitative survey does not mean you are undertaking mixed methods. Rather, you are undertaking quantitative methods, collecting data via a survey, and adding a few open-ended questions to the survey. In contrast, if you are undertaking mixed methods, this means you are undertaking quantitative methods (e.g. a survey) and qualitative methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups, observation, etc.).