Mixed Methods of Research

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“If we knew what it was that we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Albert Einstein Mixed methods research is fast becoming recognised as a third major research approach or paradigm alongside qualitative and quantitative research. Its philosophy is pragmatic, and in general terms it is an approach which attempts to acknowledge several perspectives, viewpoints and angles. Research methods are a fundamental component of the social sciences which facilitate the understanding of human behaviour. Grinnell (1993, as cited in Kumar, 2005, p.95) defines research as being a “careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to establish facts or principles”. Grinnell also adds that research is a structured inquiry which employs scientific methodology for problem solving and creating new knowledge. This paper will critically discuss the nature and design of mixed methods research. The essay begins by defining mixed methods before giving an outline of the quantitative and qualitative approaches followed by a discussion on the debate surrounding the multi-strategy approach.

Multi-strategy research attempts to combine methods from the positivist- quantitative and the interpretive- qualitative paradigms. Both numerical data, a result of quantitative enquiry and narrative data, a result of qualitative enquiry are collected and analysed with the aim of trying to answer a specific research question. This type of integration may also be referred to as multi-strategy research (Williams, 2007). Tashakkori & Teddlie (2003) undertook the task of classifying various terms researchers use to describe mixed methods. They argue that clarity is needed as mixed methods can be described as a third paradigm with its own worldview which, as a strategy of research, has gained momentum in recent years. Tashakkori & Teddlie (2003) have defined mixed methods studies as studies that involve the use of both “qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis techniques in either parallel or sequential phases”, with the mixing occurring in the methods section of the study (p.11).The proposal to mix both methods would seem to allow for researchers to capitalise upon their various strengths allowing for the weaknesses to be offset (Bryman, 2004). Kumar (2005) articulates the view that both approaches have their place in research with certain disciplines lending themselves to either one or the other however, neither is superior.

Empirical research can be traced back to the Greek philosophers more than two and a half thousand years ago when interest in controlled research utilising observation and experimentation began to be used (Sarantakos, 2005). Issac Newton (1643-1727) was the first to introduce mathematics as a research tool, and his understanding of the process of research led to the formation of what we know today as the hypothetico- deductive model, which is an intercommunication between empirical observation and reason (Sarantakos, 2005). By the early nineteenth century a shift in social and economic problems called for more ‘realistic’, ‘specific’ and quantifiable data. The philosopher who engineered a shift towards this positive method of social research was August Comte (1798-1857). Comte’s theory was positivism, and the methodology he considered applicable were scientific methods of observation and experimentation. Positivism dominated during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and this had two major effects on the theory and practice of research. First came the total separation between social research and philosophy and secondly, research became empirical and quantitative, dominating the social sciences (Sarantakos, 2005). This positivist approach advocates quantitative measurement and research is typically structured, large...
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