Mixed methods research

Mixed methods research is research that uses more than one research method, usually combining quantitative and qualitative methods.

For example, the International Journal of Obesity published a paper about a study that used a mixed methods approach to understand university students' experiences of changes in their weight. The research consisted of two distinct methods:

  1. a longitudinal survey collecting quantitative data about the students
  2. a series of qualitative focus groups with some of the same students who had responded to the survey

Researchers use mixed methods to understand an issue more comprehensively or accurately than they could with only one method.

  • Enhancing research - Quantiative research helps us to measure things, while qualitative methods help us to understand things, so mixed methods allows us to both measure and understand, capitalising on the unique strengths of both approaches
  • Validating research - Because there is a risk of error with any research method, using more than one method helps us to confirm that our findings are correct. If the methods produce similar findings, then we can be more confident that those findings are correct. This process is called triangulation.

The Understanding Health Research tool is best suited to reviewing research that uses only one method. However, if the research you are interested in uses more than one method, you can still use the tool. Try going through the tool once for each method included in the research. For example, if the research includes a quantiative survey and a qualitative ethnography, you could use the tool once following the survey pathway and once again following the qualitative pathway.