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Mixed methods research

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Abstract

This chapter explores various ways of conceiving what is called mixed methods research (MMR) – mixing quantitative and qualitative traditions. After reading this chapter, you should be able to: • Discuss the debates around what it might mean to “mix” different methods employed in the process of doing MMR; • Explore the philosophical underpinnings which can be said to underlie the use of different methods in MMR; • Reflect on whether we should regard mixed methods research as encapsulating a different paradigm from those that are seen as traditionally underpinning quantitatively-directed or qualitatively-directed research traditions; • Articulate how a “third” paradigmatic stance as an underpinning for MMR can be justified; • Differentiate between multi-methods and MMR; • Describe key considerations that should inform the choice of MMR as a methodology to conduct research; • Outline key MMR designs; and • Reflect on how to conduct MMR.
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Chapter 9
Mixed methods research
Norma RA Romm and Patrick Ngulube
9.1 Introduction
In Chapters 7 and 8, Chireshe and Ngulube deliberated on the quantitative and
qualitative research methodologies respectively. This chapter explores various ways
of conceiving what is called mixed methods research (MMR) mixing quantitative
and qualitative traditions. After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
Discuss the debates around what it might mean to “mix” different methods
employed in the process of doing MMR;
Explore the philosophical underpinnings which can be said to underlie the use
of different methods in MMR;
Reflect on whether we should regard mixed methods research as
encapsulating a different paradigm from those that are seen as traditionally
underpinning quantitatively-directed or qualitatively-directed research
traditions;
Articulate how a “third” paradigmatic stance as an underpinning for MMR can
be justified;
Differentiate between multi-methods and MMR;
Describe key considerations that should inform the choice of MMR as a
methodology to conduct research;
Outline key MMR designs; and
Reflect on how to conduct MMR.
9.2 Background
As noted in Chapter 7, quantitative methods are utilised when researchers are
interested in providing numerical measures and applying statistical tests to the
material being considered (relationships between variables). Quantitatively-directed
research is considered to be more at “home” within a positivist or post-positivist
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
orientation (paradigm of inquiry), which is adopted more or less consciously by
researchers. Qualitative methods (see Chapter 8), in contrast which are focused
less on numerical findings and more on in-depth exploration and analysis of certain
dimensions and characteristics of topics being investigated are considered as
being more naturally at home “within the critical interpretive framework” (Denzin &
Lincoln, 2000:8). Meanwhile, as Ngulube (2012) notes, in addition to the classical
categorisation of research approaches into two groups, there has emerged, in the
last 50 years, a third approach (sometimes called a new paradigm) termed mixed
methods research (MMR). Creswell, Fetters and Ivankova (2004:7) offer a definition
of MMR as being applicable to a study that:
involves the collection or analysis of both quantitative and/or qualitative data in a
single study in which the data are collected concurrently or sequentially, [both kinds
of data] are given a priority, and [interpretations] involve the integration of the data
at one or more stages in the process of research.
Ngulube (2012) indicates that contention exists concerning the origins and the use of
MMR. Some scholars even argue that by using closed question items (quantitative)
and open-ended items (qualitative) in one questionnaire, researchers are dealing
with multiple kinds of data, and that this can be seen as constituting MMR. Certain
ethnographers also lay a claim to employing MMR insofar as they collect both
qualitative data (e.g. through interviews) and quantitative data (e.g. surveys) when
conducting research. Ngulube (2010) suggests that these claims often seem to be
based on the assumption that if one approaches a phenomenon using a variety of
methods, one can use each method to build up a more accurate picture of it (hoping
indeed to achieve the same result/picture using different data sources). However, he
points out that MMR is currently understood to involve more than simply the
combination of methods (Ngulube, 2010:255).
Therefore, MMR should not be confused with multi-method, a term that is at times
inappropriately used interchangeably with MMR. MMR, which has been termed the
third methodological movement (paradigm), employs two methodologies and two
paradigms (worldviews), while multi-method research may use two or more research
3
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
methods within a single methodology or worldview, in the tradition of methodological
triangulation (Mingers & Brocklesby, 1997; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009; Venkatesh,
Brown & Bala, 2013). Multi-method research, as conceptualised by Campbell and
Fiske (1959), was designed to guarantee the reliability and validity of quantitative
measures, although they may be used in qualitative traditions, in as much as
triangulation, which was developed by Denzin (1970) as a multiple form of qualitative
methods used to establish consistency in the data, is widely used in quantitative
contexts. In comparison to MMR, multi-methods research is concerned with the
mixing of methods, rather than the mixing of methodologies in the whole research
enterprise.
In other words, MMR moves beyond techniques and methods, as it encompasses all
the phases of the research process, including the philosophical assumptions and
research question (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). Stated differently, mixed methods
research somehow has to take into account the different ontological,
epistemological, doxological and axiological starting points that direct inquiries (that
is, views on the nature of reality, what is involved in knowing, and the admission of
values into scientific inquiry). MMR is thus seen as generating a third methodological
movement (along with quantitative (QUANT) and qualitative (QUAL) research
respectively). But what is involved in doing MMR?
In order to “mix” in a way that operates across different paradigms, some authors
suggest that MMR needs to be underpinned by a third distinct research paradigm.
Creswell and Garrett (2008:327) note that many proponents of mixed methods
research (including Teddlie and Tashakkori, 2003a, who link this with the adoption of
a pragmatic paradigm). In a similar vein, Cameron (2009:140) points out that those
following a “pragmatic” stance do not identify with “purists”, whom they feel have set
up a false dichotomy between the qualitative and quantitative research paradigms.
Nevertheless, contention still exists regarding how one can indeed “mix” across
different philosophical positions and what it means to create a position that can do
justice to the variety of philosophical perspectives.
4
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004:17) explain what is involved in advocating a
pragmatic philosophical position as a possible underpinning for mixed method
research. They indicate that:
We agree with others in the mixed methods research movement that consideration
and discussion of pragmatism by research methodologists and empirical
researchers will be productive because it offers an immediate and useful middle
position philosophically and methodologically; it offers a practical and outcome-
orientated method of inquiry that is based on action and leads, iteratively, to further
action …; and it offers a method for selecting methodological mixes that can help
researchers better answer many of their research questions.
Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004) see MMR as an attempt to embrace, while in
some sense move beyond, the diversity of paradigms so that methods as well as
perspectives can be combined in a single study by a researcher or team of
researchers (or even across a number of related studies1). They deem it important in
MMR that due attention is given to the understanding that each method or research
outlook offers a different orientation to the research. The idea here is to celebrate
the diversity of methods and perspectives and to generate a kind of synthesis, while
encompassing the diversity, as well as offering research that can be of benefit to
participants and other stakeholders. Johnson (2009:449) states this position in the
following way:
Mixed methods research provides an anti-dualistic and syncretic philosophy and set
of approaches or possibilities for merging insights from diverse perspectives; its
working goal is to provide pragmatic, ethical solutions to local and societal
problems.
1 Brannen (2005) also notes that mixed methods research implies working with different types of data,
but may also involve “using different investigators sometimes different research teams working in
different research paradigms” (Brannen, 2005:4). This of course does not preclude individual
researchers (when one investigator is adopting MMR in a study) from embracing a variety of points
of departure or frameworks.
5
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
However, having said this, this does not mean that all issues associated with the so-
called paradigm wars [dichotomy between quantitative and qualitative perspectives]
are hereby resolved.
In this chapter, we discuss various questions relating to the definition and practice of
MMR, such as:
Whether quantitative and qualitative methods are based on different
paradigmatic assumptions and cannot easily be combined (even via a so-
called third paradigm);
Whether in much of the practice of so-called MMR there tends to be a
pervasive post-positivist bias, where the distinctiveness of the qualitative
paradigm is lost and the qualitative approach tends to become subordinated
to the quantitative one (as argued by, for example, Hesse-Biber (2010));
Whether it is acceptable to have some designs which afford what Johnson,
Onwuegbuzie and Turner (2007:124) call “dominant status” to either
quantitative or qualitative methods and perspectives;
What the rationale for applying MMR may be and how one can conceptualise
pragmatism as an “alternative” paradigm in itself;
Whether MMR designs (in a single study) are too expensive and whether we
can consider MMR as being operative across several studies, insofar as
researchers take one another‟s work into account (in a programme of inquiry);
Whether certain topics are best approached using mixed methods; and
How choices among concurrent and sequential designs can be made and
justified (where different methods are used, either simultaneously or
sequentially).
In order to look at these questions in some detail, we offer a number of examples in
the next section of the use of mixed methods research. We have chosen some
examples from the work of Naidoo in her account of research concerning “women‟s
reproduction” and its implications for South African research in this field (as outlined
in her 2008 article). This work can be seen as providing an opportunity for exploring
many of the issues that arise in MMR and with which this chapter is concerned.
6
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Before we look at Naidoo‟s work, we would like to include, as additional background,
the contention made by some authors that in much of the practice of (supposed)
MMR, the qualitative data and interpretation thereof seems to be treated as what
Hesse-Biber (2010:457) calls “second best” to the quantitative data. In other words, it
is argued that the qualitative component of research becomes seen as merely
helping to illustrate or further “confirm” the quantitative results (if the qualitative
component comes after the quantitative one), or else to provide assistance in
defining the quantitative measures to be used in, for example, survey research
questions (if the qualitative component precedes the quantitative). Here again the
quantitative component of the research is regarded as the primary part of the project
(and the qualitative component is therefore afforded less “status” in such a design).
To support her argument with regard to the subordination of the qualitative
component in many so-called mixed designs across the globe, Hesse-Biber (2010)
mentions a number of authors who have studied the use of MMR in practice. She
points to Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann and Hanson‟s (2003) article, where they
noted that a common mixed methods design “aims for triangulation (QUAN + QUAL),
whereby the motive is to validate quantitative statistical findings with qualitative data
results”. Here the goal of the design is to “confirm the original QUAN findings”
(Creswell et al., as cited in Hesse-Biber, 2010:457). She also points to Brannon‟s
(2005) observation that the most frequent design among sequential mixed methods
involves the use of “qualitative pilot work” to precede and “be subservient to a larger
survey” (Hesse-Biber, 2010:457).
Hesse-Biber (2010) makes the point that a more qualitatively-directed MMR can be
said to be underpinned by a radically different approach to research than an
approach which is quantitatively directed. Instead of looking for the one “truth” that is
supposedly supported by both the quantitative and qualitative evidence, one
recognises that “social reality is socially constructed and multiple” (Hesse-Biber,
2010:455). Hence, the idea is not to try to find out what “really” is the case, but to
explore the topic afresh and develop multiple interpretations based on both the
quantitative and qualitative data. These types of data do not need to be integrated
7
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
into one consistent picture. This confirms Ngulube‟s (2010:255) point that the
purpose of MMR is not to try to eliminate the partiality of using only one type of
method in order to attain a comprehensive and accurate picture of reality (as in the
“classical triangulation” motive). There are other motivations for doing MMR, such as
developing enhanced perspectives by looking from multiple angles (while admitting
that our visions are all perspectival). This also supports Romm‟s (2010:430)
argument that MMR can, for instance, be used to enable researchers to reconsider
the status of any research products by recognising them as admittedly having been
generated through the way in which the research has proceeded.
As indicated above, in discussing the field of inquiry of women‟s reproduction,
Naidoo offers some examples of how one can use MMR in an “alternative” way to
current, more pervasive uses of it in South Africa as elsewhere. She points out that
in the South African context, despite it being said by many scholars that alongside
survey data, there needs to be an interrogation of the contextual and dynamic
realities influencing fertility behaviour:
in practice demographic methodologies remain largely unchanged with the key
priorities of demographers remaining to monitor changes in fertility, reproductive
practices and reproductive health and to serve as informants of a changed (albeit a
democratic) government's policy-making institutions.
She suggests that transformation of this research agenda:
would entail not just a creative integration of different types of methods but a
reappraisal of the central assumptions of the "conventional" demographic paradigm
and the infusion of critical discourses and analysis so that the discipline reshapes
itself within a more reflexive and meaningful framework [which is able to look back
on itself and how it is framing research issues] (2008).
She offers three research designs (discussed in the next section) that she considers
as exemplifying different ways of accomplishing this “reflexivity”, where researchers
are more equipped to consider the way in which methods or philosophical positions
affect the framing of research questions, and indeed make a difference to the way in
8
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
which the research affects the society. Ultimately, she hopes that MMR can enable
researchers individually and via collaborative team work to “probe power
inequalities, question state decisions and examine the intricacies of social contexts
as well as the politics”. In this way, she links MMR to a pragmatic orientation similar
to that called for by Johnson (2009:449), when he suggests that the working goal of
MMR is “to provide pragmatic, ethical solutions to local and societal problems”.
Naidoo‟s and Johnson‟s call for research to have a pragmatic angle that serves
beneficiaries is also echoed by Oser-Hwedie (2007:184), who suggests that the way
in which research becomes framed and the questions addressed need to be
carefully thought through as a matter of ethics, as he states that:
Research activity is shaped by the perceptions of the researcher and others
involved in one way or the other as well as preconceptions about ethical
responsibilities of a host of people associated with both the research and the policy
process.
To place these considerations in a wider context, it is also worth citing Chilisa‟s
(2007:199) argument that “First World ways of knowing have become the standard
against which all other knowledge systems are judged”. She feels that First World
scholarship does not adequately account “for context and culture in making
generalisations and comparisons across countries”. She maintains that there is still a
pre-dominant focus on the “positivist research paradigm and ignoring of
marginalising alternative paradigms”. In other words, even insofar as “qualitative”
techniques become employed, they are not employed in a manner that allows for
alternative ways of knowing to come to the fore such as those developed in the
Third World (or what she called the Two-Thirds World to account for its being two
thirds of the world‟s population). As we saw when discussing the work of Hsiung
(2012) in Chapter 8, he presents similar concerns about the way in which qualitative
research with its focus on “context and culture” tends to become devalued in
much research (or in Chilisa‟s words, marginalised).
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
We now turn to a description of the three cases of MMR on which Naidoo (2008)
reports, in order to “ground” the discussion around the questions raised in this
chapter.
9.3 A brief outline of three MMR exemplars
The first example offered by Naidoo (2008) is a simultaneous application of a survey
and of ethnographic methods to explore “family process and fertility among the
Tamang in Nepal”. This was a study done by Axinn, Fricke and Thornton (1991).
Naidoo notes that the methods served to complement each other, in that the
(quantitatively-directed) research instruments were structured in relation to
investigators becoming familiar with the language, history and social activities of the
local population. This led to the making of instruments such as a household census,
family genealogy schedules, and an individual questionnaire (for filling in by
participants). The survey work started to occur once those administering the
questionnaire established rapport with household participants via their more
ethnographic work. In the evenings, the survey data gathered to date was then
compared with the data from the ethnographic work. This helped to raise issues that
were not on the agenda prior to this. This meant that the questionnaire changed as
new categories were created for example, with reference to the clan system,
marriage (and definitions of this) and expected behaviour in families (This is different
from the “traditional” use of questionnaires, where it is considered that once the
questionnaire has been created and is starting to be administered, it cannot be
modified along the way). The questionnaire in this case was shaped and framed
through the (simultaneous) ethnographic work.
Naidoo argues that here the “qualitative” principle that categories need to be made
that are relevant to participants was considered to be an important one to take into
account, rather than regarding survey instruments as fixed once they have been
constructed by researchers (after some initial piloting). She also makes the point that
the ethnographic work helped to highlight the problematic nature of asking sensitive
questions via a questionnaire, where people are expected to answer in a “brisk”
manner. In other words, when using a questionnaire, one is asking people to
respond quickly to questions being asked of them. This is viewed (by survey
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
researchers) as offering a “true” window into people‟s lifestyles, and the briskness of
the respondents‟ answers becomes ignored by researchers at the point of analysis
and interpretation.
The MMR approach in this case thus served to highlight the problems involved in
relying on “brisk” responses. This is not to say that the data obtained from the
questionnaires needs to be discounted. Rather, they should be treated as indeed
brisk responses that may not have been thought through or carefully considered by
respondents. In addition, the categories themselves in terms of which people are
required to answer questions may not be meaningful to them. For example, Naidoo
notes that in the context of South Africa, how stable women regard their “marriages”
or “partnerships” makes a difference to their reproductive choices but the
significance of being married is often not clear-cut: sometimes “married” women
have less stable partnerships than those in more informal unions. Women‟s choices
often seem to be a product of how stable they regard the partnership to be. Hence,
the MMR alerts us to various interpretations of the link between “marriage” and
“reproductive choices”.
Naidoo provides a second example of the use of MMR in this field this time it is a
sequential use of MMR, where closed-ended questions from a questionnaire were
compared with open-ended ones and where the latter were examined in detail with a
view to offering deeper insight into the “hard” survey results. For instance, in this
case, where Bledsoe, Banja and Hill were examining fertility in rural Gambia (1998),
the survey results suggested that out of the 150 women using modern contraception,
18% were using contraception after a miscarriage. In the course of the qualitative
inquiry, the researchers came to the conclusion that this was often linked to creating
a recuperative space for women, despite the pressure they felt to “reproduce”. Thus,
data that did not make quantitative sense made more sense when examined via a
qualitative lens. Naidoo uses this case to illustrate that the numbers offered by
different data sets could be questioned via “more investigative qualitative work”
(where she regards in-depth study of the participants‟ language used in the open-
ended questions as qualitative work).
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Of course, some researchers do not agree that the use of quantitative and qualitative
data from a survey constitutes MMR. They would suggest that different methods
need to be employed in order for a study to be called MMR. However, Naidoo‟s
suggestion is that it depends on how the research is done - if the investigative
qualitative work is sufficiently thorough, then it can serve to highlight multiple ways of
understanding “the data”, and can offer a new way of treating the “hard” data.
Naidoo offers a third example of what she classifies as MMRm as used by Scheper-
Hughes, who explicitly criticised scientific work in which researchers overlook the
manner in which the structure of science “structures the questions asked and
overdetermines the findings” (Scheper-Hughes, as cited in Naidoo, 2008). In this
case, Scheper-Hughes adopted a critical interpretive approach to examining
previous research in terms of its implicit convictions concerning what are seen as
"useful data" and what form research should take. She criticises quantitatively
directed studies and collaborative efforts between demographers and
anthropologists, where the aim is ultimately to reduce social life to “lifeless
variables”. On the issue of collaboration, Scheper-Hughes cautions against forms of
collaboration where qualitatively trained anthropologists join up with demographers
but still end up offering “reified variables” as a product of the (team) research. As an
alternative to this, she immersed herself in a fieldwork site, in which she did not try to
become “a neutral recorder of facts but an active campaigner in the lives of people”
(Naidoo, 2008). Naidoo notes that she calls more generally for "praxis-oriented,
critically applied and politically engaged anthropology to illuminate the complex and
multifaceted ... dilemmas of vulnerable populations" (Scheper-Hughes, as cited in
Naidoo, 2008). In Scheper-Hughes‟ view, methods of research (used by individual
researchers and in teams) should be directed towards this end.
9.4 Another example of MMR as specifically pragmatically oriented
The examples discussed by Naidoo (2008), and especially the third one, offer
illustrations of how MMR can be underpinned by a pragmatic orientation intentionally
directed towards developing what Johnson (2009:449) calls “pragmatic, ethical
solutions to local and societal problems”.
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
McKay and Romm (2008) likewise offer an account of what they see as “active
research”2 which is (pragmatically) directed towards making a positive difference in
the lives of (vulnerable) participants. In their mixed methods research conducted in
Zambia on HIV and AIDS, different methods were used sequentially, with all of them
being geared towards making some impact that could be considered as an
improvement (McKay & Romm, 2008). The research (commissioned by the
International Labour Organisation) followed a format used in a number of other
Southern African countries (McKay, 2003) and involved four main stages (McKay &
Romm, 2008:150):
Administration of a Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions and Behaviours
questionnaire (KAPB) to a sample of 407 respondents/participants in the
informal economy from four targeted sites in Zambia. (During the KAPB
administration, the research assistants also elicited interest from participants
in terms of attending rapid assessment workshops and potentially operating
as peer educators in the informal economy).
Rapid assessment (RA) workshops undertaken in the same areas (with about
50 participants each, selected from participants in the KAPB survey, as well
as from organizations deemed relevant to invite as defined by the
participants, together with the research assistants).
Peer education, making use of a training brochure developed by Professor
McKay and Dr Morr (a medical doctor), which arose from the earlier stages of
the research (and focusing on themes, issues and misconceptions identified
as important to address).
A national workshop aimed at disseminating and discussing the research and
accompanying recommendations to date, and extending these, while also
clarifying the respective roles of agents and actors in carrying them forward.
McKay and Romm explain (2008:153) that as researchers, they were conscious of
making an effort to impact on various levels in the programmatic effort to address
HIV/AIDS, including:
2 McKay and Romm suggest that this can be considered as a form of action research, albeit not in the
traditional sense of the term, which implies the setting up of cycles of action and reflection (as
advocated by many action researchers).
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
At a local level by workers in the markets themselves as respondents/
participants in the KAPB survey and RA workshops and those reached by the
peer education process were engaged in the inquiries.
In the relations between the marketers and local and national organisations
and departments (as networking and social capital increase).
In the way in which policy becomes defined nationally (as voices become
more vocal around problematised issues and as policy-makers themselves
become drawn into the research enterprise).
At a more global level (as the ILO report is received in Geneva and in turn fed
back into relevant policy-making guidelines for affiliated countries).
McKay and Romm (2008:153) further elucidate that the aim of the research was to
enable all those involved in the inquiries (whose involvement was solicited as part of
the research) to “reflect on the dominant discourses about HIV/AIDS, gender
relations, sexual practices and traditions which place people at risk”.
These examples bear some witness to ways in which MMR can be viewed as
involving a pragmatic orientation, not only in the sense that it works in terms of
research designs to offer increased insight into topics being examined, but also in
the sense that it works to enable the development of practical outcomes that are
likely to be experienced as more “just” by various participants and stakeholders.
9.5 A note on the contours of a pragmatic approach in terms of
epistemological, ontological and axiological understandings
Having offered some examples of what it might mean to utilise MMR in terms of a
pragmatic underpinning, we now turn to Johnson‟s (2009) account of what such an
underpinning implies in terms of epistemological, ontological and axiological stances.
Johnson (2009) addresses these questions by firstly considering a pragmatic stance
in relation to the so-called fact/value distinction, which he sees as one of the major
points of epistemological contention between post-positivist and more
humanistically-directed research.
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
As far as the fact or value distinction is concerned, where post-positivism stresses
the requirement to seek “the facts” (separate from researchers‟ values) as a
grounding for science and humanism/constructivism contests this separation,
Johnson (2009:452) points out that a pragmatic approach considers that “facts and
values are entangled and that researchers should more explicitly recognise and
emphasise this situation”. He clarifies that:
Raw data, especially social science data, cannot be interpreted in the absence of
values. Human beings cannot fully reason on or about “facts” without concurrently
reasoning and relying on values (Johnson, 2009: 452).
Therefore, in terms of a pragmatic position, social researchers are called upon to
make explicit to themselves and others their value concerns, so that these can be
reflected upon as part of the process of recognising their influence on the selection
of research questions, interpretation of results and creation of recommendations
(This also allows for a more dialogical stance in relation to what others may express,
as researchers become more aware of the perspectival character of their own initial
visions).
As far as ontological questions are concerned, Johnson approaches the issue of
whether social science as science is necessarily oriented to seeking causality, in
the sense of investigating regular causal connections between variables. Johnson
(2009:453) suggests in this regard that a pragmatic position does not rely solely on a
“regularity view of causation”. Johnson (2009:453) points out that:
full reliance on the traditional regularity view omits what mixed methods researchers
would view as complementary approaches to causation, such as intentional
causation [based on exploring people‟s intentions], an instrumental/ pragmatic view
of causation [considering how in practice people attribute causes], explanatory
causation [trying to explain outcomes with reference to some causes], and
complexity [as a theoretical perspective on non-linearity].
He sees MMR as creating space for “multiple approaches to addressing causation”,
and ideally integrating these approaches into the study or programme of inquiry
15
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
(Johnson, 2009: 453). He does not see an “unbridgeable ontological gap” between
different ways of choosing to identify “causality” when considering how to approach
social realities - in other words, he believes that room can be made for a variety of
approaches. He believes indeed that a pragmatic stance increases researchers‟
proficiency in making room for research that looks at social “reality” in different ways.
He calls this attitude an “inclusive ontology” (Johnson, 2009:454). He suggests that
useful integration of ways of looking “can be obtained from dialectically listening to
qualitative and quantitative positions” and hence developing a syncretic position
(Johnson, 2009:454).
Considering axiological commitments, we have seen that he does not believe that
values can be separated from the process of doing science. He considers that
researchers should acknowledge the values that may be informing their ways of
setting research questions and interpreting results, and that they should also be
working towards serving goals of social justice (and contributing to discourses
around what this involves). He believes that, ultimately, research can be judged in
terms of standards of worth that include considerations regarding the workability of
the research process and its manner of developing outcomes that can be “valued as
good by you [as researchers] and your stakeholders” (Johnson, 2009:454). In this
respect, he argues that it is important to take into account how others are likely to
view the research design, as well as the way of presenting “results” that spring from
it. He makes the point that a pragmatic approach, where the working goal is to seek
ethical solutions to local and societal problems, cannot be reduced to technical rule
following on the part of researchers. Questions that need to be borne in mind when
adopting such an approach are:
What works [in terms of research design]?
For whom [that is, for which stakeholders]?
In what contexts [that is, in what contexts do different designs seem to work
better]?
How does it work? [that is, what processes are being used, such that they can
be deemed to be working]?
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
And how can it continually adjust to changing conditions and be improved?
[that is, how can researchers be alert to feedback from others about their
ways of doing research and relating to a variety of stakeholders]? (Johnson,
2009:455).
This means that Johnson himself recognises that what some stakeholders may
regard as workable (for example, policy makers may prefer “hard” data to help
devise and revise policies) may not work as well for others (for example, for
vulnerable populations), as also indicated by Naidoo (2008). Asking such questions
thus requires researchers to consider power relations and the manner in which social
research can serve to entrench or alter these relations so as to develop “solutions to
local and societal problems” (Johnson, 2009).
9.6 Guidelines for conducting MMR
MMR is gaining popular for the following reasons (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011:12;
Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004:21, Ngulube, 2013:4):
The recognition that the complexity of current research issues warrants
multifaceted research designs and methods;
The rise of a generation of scholars that challenged the conventional ways of
thinking about the research process;
The existing examples of the successful application of research methods that
do not follow the quantitativequalitative divide;
The admission that “the (constructivist account) may deny the reality of the
very phenomena that the objectivist account seeks to understand” (Bryman,
2007:16);
The acceptance that bringing together both quantitative and qualitative
research so that the strengths of both approaches are combined leads to a
better understanding of research problems than either approach alone
(Creswell & Garrett 2008); and
The popularisation of the integration of research methods by the extant
literature (e.g. journals such as the Journal of Counselling Psychology (2004),
The International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Practice (2005) and Journal of Multiple Research Approaches (2011) devoted
an entire issue to articles that integrated research methods); and the
publication of comprehensive mixed methods books and the Journal of Mixed
Methods Research.
Although MMR is becoming popular, it is not without its criticisms. It is criticised for
the following reasons (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie,
2004):
There is no clarity in terms of its definition and its benefits;
It can be difficult for one researcher to acquire the skills needed to carry out
both qualitative and quantitative research, especially if the research design is
concurrent. However, methodological eclecticism may be achieved by a
“connoisseur of methods” (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2012:777), although Denzin
(2008:322) rejects the whole notion of methodological bilingualism;
Proponents of the incompatibility thesis argue that qualitative and quantitative
methods are based on different paradigm assumptions and hence cannot be
easily combined;
MMR privileges post-positivism at the expense of interpretivism, since QAUL
tends to be subordinate to QUANT in many MMR studies. In fact, Giddings
(2006) was concerned that mixed methods research was “positivism dressed
in drag”; and
MMR designs are too expensive.
MMR designs may be implemented concurrently and sequentially, although Creswell
and Plano Clark (2011:66) mention a third timing classification known as multiphase
combination. Multiphase combination includes some concurrent and sequential
elements within one research study. The implementation of MMR is determined by
how the quantitative strand relates to the qualitative one or vice versa. Building on
the previous sections and the various methodological debates on MMR, we
recommend a few guidelines that may be used as a framework for MMR researchers
(see Collins, Onwuegbuzie & Sutton, 2006; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011;
Venkatesh, Brown & Bala, 2013 for other examples). These guidelines may help to
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
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alleviate the confusion among researchers who think that in practice, multi-methods
research and triangulation are some forms of MMR. In addition to these guidelines,
use the following checklist in order to ensure that MMR is the most appropriate
methodology for conducting your research:
Is the topic best approached using MMR?
Is choosing either the quantitative or quantitative approach insufficient to
address the research problem?
Is the research problem suitable for MMR? (see Creswell & Plano Clark,
2011:8).
Why are you applying the mixed methods approach? (justification for using
MMR).
At what stage are you going to do the “mixing”?
Does your research question address both quantitative and qualitative data?
What MMR design are you going to use?
What quantitative and qualitative data are you going to collect?
How are you going to validate both your qualitative and quantitative research
strategies?
The elements that may be used in answering these questions are partly summarised
in Figure 9.1 below. In constructing the procedural diagram, no attempt was made to
use the notation system employed in the literature on MMR design characteristics.
However, the guidelines provided by Inankova, Creswell and Stick (2006) were
factored in.
The research problem, research questions, purpose of mixing and the research
situation can help to determine the appropriateness of MMR for investigating a
research situation. The justification for the use of MMR in a study is dependent on
these matters. They in turn determine the research design and design
implementation strategies. According to the typology of Creswell and Plano Clark
(2011:54), mixed methods designs can be fixed or emergent. The fixed ones are
predetermined at the planning phase of the research, whereas those that are
emergent arise during the process of conducting research. Figure 9.1 below depicts
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
some of the fixed mixed methods designs. Explanatory, exploratory, convergent,
embedded and multiphase designs are part of a suite of designs that MMR
researchers may use, although there are other typologies that are available,
depending on what one reads.
Convergent designs entail the collection of quantitative and qualitative data
concurrently, and the analysis occurs separately, while the mixing takes place at the
interpretation stage. In explanatory designs, data collected by quantitative means is
explained or expanded using qualitative data. Researchers explore a topic using
qualitative methods and then commence the quantitative phase on the basis of
collected qualitative data in an exploratory design. Exploratory designs may assist in
theory and instrument development. In sequential embedded designs, collected
qualitative data assist in recruiting participants for the intervention, while in the
concurrent scenario, qualitative data is collected to investigate the experiences of the
experimental group in relation to the intervention, while the quantitative strand
focuses on the results of the trial (Creswell, 2008; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011;
Creswell, Plano Clark & Garrett, 2008). It implies that the qualitative strand is
implemented before, during and after a quantitative experiment. Unlike in the
exploratory and explanatory designs, where the implementation of MMR is
sequential, the timing in the embedded designs may be either concurrent or
sequential. The same strategy may be used in multiphase designs. Multiphase
designs are generally employed in monitoring and evaluation programmes, in order
to develop and evaluate such interventions. The qualitative or quantitative strands
are used concurrently to address a certain phase of the programme. The mixing
strategy typically occurs at the design stage. The discussion of meta-inferences is
limited in MMR discourse (Venkatesh, Brown & Bala, 2013). Venkatesh, Brown and
Bala (2013:38) define meta-inferences as “theoretical statements, narratives, or a
story inferred from an integration of findings from quantitative and qualitative strands
of mixed methods research”. Meta-inferences are important because they provide a
possibility of developing substantive theories about phenomena (which of course
does not rule out discursive exploration around different theoretical perspectives that
can be brought to bear in defining and interpreting the “phenomena”).
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
Although validity is one of six important issues identified by Teddlie and Tashakkori
(2003b), its discussion in the MMR literature is still in its infancy (Creswell & Plano
Clark, 2011). Some scholars are not comfortable with the concept when applied to
MMR studies. Tashakkori and Teddlie (2008) prefer the use of the term inference
quality to refer to validity. Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) suggest that researchers
should be careful about how they conceptualise validity in MMR, how and when they
report on the validity of both strands, the extent to which they use the established
validity claims used in qualitative and quantitative research, and how they might
minimise what some may see as “threats to validity”. When it comes to the timing of
reporting validity issues, researchers may validate their data during collection,
analysis and interpretation phases, as advised by Creswell and Plano Clark (2011).
However, they also need to bear in mind ongoing debates regarding the use of the
term “validity” and whether alternative criteria such as trustworthiness, display of
caring, display of commitment to serving those who are relatively disadvantaged in
society, etc. could be invoked to account for the worthiness and quality of the
research (cf. Mertens, 2012: 12-13).
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds). Addressing research challenges: making headway for
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Figure 9.1: Decision tree for a MMR study (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Venkatesh, Brown & Bala, 2013)
Appropriateness of MMR
Research design
Design strategy (Data
collection timing)
Mixing strategy
Generating theoretical
statements (substantive theory)
Validation of MMR
Research question
Context of research situation
Convergent
Explanatory
Exploratory
(i) QUANT or QUAL data source inadequate (ii) Explain QUANT results using another
methodology (iii) Generalize QUAL exploratory findings (iv) Enhancement of a study
Embedded
ded
Multiphase
Concurrent
Sequence
Multiphase combination
(i) Design stage (ii) Within a theoretical perspective (iii) Data collection
(iv) Data analysis (v) Data interpretation
Draw Inferences (provide and explain meta-inferences for each strand)
Conceptualising
validity
Timing of the reporting and
discussing validity matters
Exploring validation
issues
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds). Addressing research challenges: making headway for
developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
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Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
9.7 Conclusion
We are now in a position to finalise this chapter by revisiting the seven questions that
we raised in our introduction and background. We provide our tentative “answers” to
each of them in turn (for now), based on our discussion in this chapter. Readers are
of course invited to offer their own answers in engagement with ours.
According to a pragmatically-oriented paradigm as a possible philosophical
underpinning for MMR, it is possible to “mix” quantitative and qualitative research
approaches in a way that can do justice to both but this requires an orientation of
“dialectic listening” to what “the other” can offer. In this process, methods themselves
can be creatively modified to take into account that a new design is being formulated
for purposes of developing insight, as well as making a positive difference to the
social and political dynamics of which the research is part (See also White & Taket,
1997; Midgley, 2000; Midgley & Ochoa-Arias, 2001; Romm, 2010).
Insofar as there can be argued to be a post-positivist bias in MMR as, for instance,
argued by Hesse-Biber (2010) and others, this can be counteracted by being open to
approaches other than a triangulation one. The triangulation motive, which focuses
on trying to adequately “capture” the phenomenon, is then recognised to subdue
alternative research motives, such as exploring multiple interpretations.
We can choose to work with research designs where either the search for “hard”
data (and understanding of regular causal relationships) or the search for “soft” data
(and multiple interpretations of these) is given paramount attention as in some of
the designs tabulated by Johnson, Onwuegbuzie and Turner (2007:124), where one
of these is given a “dominant” status. However, this should be explicitly
acknowledged, rather than hidden from audiences of the reports. Furthermore, we
concur with Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner that the attempt to afford more or
less equal status to the different types of methods employed when mixing methods is
more in line with researchers who self-identify as a “mixed methods researcher”.
The rationale for an MMR that is underpinned by a pragmatic paradigm is to
generate research that can be accounted for with reference to its “working” in
24
Romm, N. and Ngulube, P. 2015. Mixed methods research, in Mathipa, ER & Gumbo, MT. (eds).
Addressing research challenges: making headway for developing researchers. Mosala-MASEDI
Publishers & Booksellers cc: Noordywk, pp. 157-175.
practice to offer enhanced insight, as well as to help achieve what Johnson (2009)
calls searching for ethical solutions to local and societal problems, as experienced by
different stakeholders.
Insofar as researchers try to use MMR in a single study, this may become expensive
(either in singular or team work). However, people can also collaborate across
studies in a programme of inquiry and can pay attention to the work of others. This
provides leeway for examining alternative frames of reference (as offered by a range
of methods) and learning from one another in the process of doing and writing up the
research.
It is possible for researchers to defend the use of mono-method research to
approach certain topics - however, MMR makes a plea for people to at least become
more aware of the choices (and possible social consequences) involved in using one
or other method (and set of assumptions about research). Thus, MMR as a
philosophical position calls upon people to carefully consider the choices being
made in mono-directed research.
Choices regarding how to use multiple methods (whether in concurrent or
sequential designs) likewise have to be defended that is, accounted for in terms of
how they help to address the topic and how they might impact on the social and
political context of their use (as emphasised by, for instance, Flood & Romm, 1996;
Naidoo, 2008; Romm, 2010).
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Book
The clear and practical writing of Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Researchhas made this book a favorite. In precise step-by-step language the book helps you learn how to conduct, read, and evaluate research studies. Key changes include: expanded coverage of ethics and new research articles.
Article
This paper re‐engages the paradigm wars of the 1980s, discussing their relevance in the current historical moment. It extends Egon Guba’s call for dialogue across paradigm communities. Ten theses and three agenda items are advanced.Let us engage in the paradigm wars. Let us defend ourselves against those who would impose their modern notions of science on us by exposing the flaws in what they call scientifically based research (SBR). Let us mount a strong offense by generating qualitative studies that are so powerful they cannot be dismissed. (Hatch 2006, 407)Society in general is unimpressed with the contributions of social/behavioral inquiry; a pox will soon be called down on all our houses, if there is continuing conflict rather than cooperation among the paradigm adherents. It is to everyone’s benefit to cooperate. (Guba 1990b, 374)