Research Proposal: Mixing Methods Within Research Projects?

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¶ … MIXING METHODS WITHIN RESEARCH PROJECTS?

The objective of this work is to discuss some of the issues involved in 'mixing' methods within research projects? This work will further answer whether it is possible to work with more than one methodological approach simultaneously? This work finally will discuss the use of examples of specific research from the literature. This work is an essay on the philosophy of social research that has the intention of exploring the issues with regards mixing qualitative and quantitative methods within research projects and the advantages as well as disadvantages. This work will also examine how the two research methodologies can be meaningfully combined.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research

The work of Weinreich (2006) entitled: "Integrating Quantitative And Qualitative Methods in Social Marketing Research" relates that social marketers in their work toward promotion of health have learned that "rigorous quantitative research surveys do not necessarily provide all of the data needed to develop effective communications." (Weinreich, 2006) It is stated additionally that the consequence is that qualitative methods "such as focus groups and in-depth interviews, as well as less precise but useful semi-quantitative approaches, such as intercept surveys, have emerged as part of their research repertoire. In an ideal social marketing program, researchers use both quantitative and qualitative data to provide a more complete picture of the issue being addressed, the target audience and the effectiveness of the program itself." (Weinreich, 2006)

Weinreich states that researchers generally fall into one of two categories "...either relying exclusively upon "objective" survey questionnaires and statistical analyses and eschewing warm and fuzzy qualitative methods, or using only qualitative methodologies, rejecting the quantitative approach as decontextualizing human behavior. However, social marketing researchers recognize that each approach has positive attributes, and that combining different methods can result in gaining the best of both research worlds." (2006)

The quantitative research methods that have been "adopted from the physical sciences are stated to be designed for the purpose of ensuring "objectivity, generalizability and reliability." (Weinreich, 2006) These techniques are stated to include the ways that research participants are chose randomly from the population being studied and in a manner that is not biased. It also describes the questionnaire or intervention both of which are standardized in nature received by the participants as well as the "statistical methods used to test predetermined hypotheses regarding the relationships between specific variables." (Weinreich, 2006)

The researcher is not considered as an internal factor of the research and the results of the study are under expectations that they should be replicable regardless of who conducts the study. Quantitative research strengths include the production of data that quantifiable and reliable and generalizable to the larger population. Needs assessments and evaluations which compare outcomes with baseline data are appropriate for use of quantitative methods. The quantitative approach has as its' greatest weakness, the decontextualization of human behavior "in a way that removes the event from its real world setting and ignores the effects of variables that have been included in the model." (Weinreich, 2006)

Qualitative research on the other hand involves the generation of new theories or hypotheses and has as its main goals the gaining of experienced with the phenomenon in which the researcher holds an interest. Qualitative research involves as well, practical hands-on learning and observation. Qualitative research is valued for the investigation of issues that are complex or sensitive. As well, qualitative research generated very detailed information. However, the data generated in qualitative research is more of a 'raw' type of data with little if any precategorization. One drawback of the use of qualitative research is the difficulty in determining the generalizability of the data and this is one of the reasons that the mix of qualitative and quantitative study is valued.

III. Questions Arising from the Combination of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Questions that have arisen in the combination of qualitative and quantitative research include the following which are listed with the studies generating these questions listed as well:

(1) Are the quantitative and qualitative data collected simultaneously or sequentially? (Morgan 1998; Morse, 1991);

(2) Which has priority -- the qualitative or quantitative data? (Morgan 1998; Morse, 1991);

(3) What is the function of the integration -- for example, triangulation, explanation, or exploration? (Cresswell, 2003; Cresswell, et al., 2003; Green, et al., 1989);

(4) At what stage(s) in the research process does multi-strategy research occur? (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998); and (5) Is there more than one data strand? (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2003) (Bryman, 2006)

III. Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Research

The work of Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way (2008) entitled: "Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative Research in Developmental Science: Uses and Methodological Choices" states that several situations that are specifically suited to mixed qualitative and quantitative approaches includes firstly the assessment of developmental or contextual constructs that are difficult to measure using qualitative or quantitative research methods alone. In fact, "some aspects of individual behavior or contextual characteristics may be difficult to understand using only quantitative or only qualitative methods." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2008)

Additionally, it is reported that the work of Shweder, et al. (2006) noted that the study of culture "in human development benefits from the integration f symbolic and behavioral aspects of cultural communities. In this view, the shared meanings that are passed on from one generation to the next and that constitute culture have both symbolic and behavioral dimensions." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006)

IV. Why Mixed Methods are Needed in Some Areas of Research

In the study of integrated studies of beliefs and practices in human development it becomes necessary for close observations of activities and behaviors in the natural setting to be observed closely and for the beliefs, intentions, meanings and goals of children, their caregivers and others" to be conducted over time. (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006) The examination of behavior and systems of belief makes a requirement of both qualitative and quantitative methods so that the prevalence of "particular practices, behaviors, beliefs and qualitative methods to understand meanings, functions, goals and intentions." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006)

The mixing of qualitative and quantitative study methods enables the development of a "richer picture of such reciprocal associations by uncovering in detail the processes by which individuals select their own (or others') environments." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006) It is additionally reported that a situation that is common and in which quantitative and qualitative data is integrated is "the evaluation of the implementation of quality programs for children and youth." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006) This is because "implementation is partly a matter of what is offered in a program and that determine whether they make use of it. Both can explain or moderate the casual effects of an intervention on children." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006)

Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way (2006) report that the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research has occasionally been described as variable-versus individual -- centered or nomothetic and idiographic." It is reported that this is an inaccurate description since qualitative and quantitative research "can be conducted at either the population or individual level of analysis." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006)

Methodological choices in research as generally determined by the specific research question being addressed. The mix of qualitative and quantitative methods occurs in the "context of a variety of research designs, including nonexperimental and experimental studies and prospective longitudinal as well as cross-section or retrospective studies." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006) The use of integrated methods in the stages of a study as well as an "interactive, cumulative approach to inquiry, rather than the use of a new set of methods after the research design for the other part of the study has been finalized is likely to result in richer data and theory." (Yoshikawa, Weisner, Kalil and Way, 2006)

Critical issues for mixed methods of research are stated to include those as follows:

(1) Clarity of purpose, basis and substantive focus, giving direction to the study and a logical basis for explanation;

(2) awareness of the limitations of traditional methods as they are modified in a mixed methods environment;

(3) appropriate use and interpretation of quantitized coding from qualitative data;

(4) varied methods of treatment of 'error' or 'deviance'; and (5) appropriate generalization, given choice of sample and methods. (Bazeley, 2002)

Five general standards are stated in the work of Eisenhart and Howe (1992) relating to mixed methods research in the study of education. The general standards make a requirement that research using mixed methods be:

(1) Cogently developed -- there is a fit between research questions, methodological aspects, and inferences drawn from data;

(2) Competently produced which means that data collection and analysis techniques must be competently and effectively applied;

(3) Coherent with respect to previous work;

(4) Important and ethical; and (5) Comprehensive -- meaning that there should be a balance between technical and theoretical quality, the scientific and practical value and importance of the study, the risks involved as well as the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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