Mixed methods research (MMR), sometimes called multimethodology is an approach to a research problem that leverages the advantages of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to better understand the subject than any individual approach could offer on its own. It recognizes that qualitative and quantitative data can each contribute to different aspects of understanding of a problem, and it integrates both approaches within a holistic methodological approach.
If a problem is viewed from only one perspective, only a single facet of the situation will be seen, which may be misleading. MMR allows research problems to be viewed from multiple perspectives, giving a clearer picture of the issue.
There is often a dividing line between quantitative research and qualitative research. It is often assumed that quantitative research draws on positivistic ontologies of research, whereas by comparison qualitative research draws more upon interpretative, critical, and constructivist research traditions. Within the field of research, there is a broad spectrum of opinion and debate as far as these approaches to research are concerned. Some see them as diametrically opposed, whereas others see that with a pragmatic approach, different techniques can work together. The division between quantitative and qualitative research led Charles Teddlie and Abbas Tashakkori to characterize MMR as “the third methodological movement.”
Using data from multiple methodological approaches is referred to as triangulation. Triangulation involves using more than two methods in order to cross check results; the idea is that if different research methodologies produce broadly similar results, then the strength of the research is reinforced. If the results from different research methods produce conflicting results, then the researcher has the opportunity to revise how the methods used may have impacted the results or determine whether or not the problem needs to be reframed. Triangulation can also involve using multiple researchers, multiple theoretical approaches to a problem, and different empirical data for the same problem. While triangulation focuses on the convergence of results, equally interesting are cases where different methods produce divergent or dissimilar results. This in itself can yield interesting insights into the issue being examined.
While MMR aims to compensate for the weaknesses of using a single method, the technique poses some challenges. Often quantitative and qualitative researchers have advanced challenging, opposed, and contrary epistemologies allied to their research approaches. Proponents of MMR have countered this with notions of methodological eclecticism framed within a research paradigm of pragmatism. Rather than adopting fixed ontological viewpoints, proponents of MMR argue for paradigm pluralism; that is, choosing research paradigms that are appropriate for different aspects of a problem.
The practical challenges of MMR include requiring the researcher to have a broad skill set in order to be able to apply a range of different methods competently or to work as part of an organized research team that can deploy a range of methods in search of common answers.
—Gavin D. J. Harper, MSc, MIET
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