Integrating Data Through Mixed and Multi-Methods Research
Posted by: Julia Maier on 6/25/2019
Research using a single method is quicker and more cost effective than using multiple methods. A short survey of a few direct questions provides descriptive data to summarize people’s attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately, a single-method design can be akin to a single blind man attempting to identify an elephant: it can be unable to capture the full picture and limits the insights that can be derived. KJT Group often recommends mixed methods and multi-methods research to obtain data via multiple sources to provide a more reliable insight narrative.
Mixed Methods Research
Qualitative and quantitative approaches to research are the fundamental approaches to collecting data. Qualitative research allows us to take an idiographic approach to under-standing respondents’ experiences: each person is an individual with a unique story and perspective. Through in-depth conversations, we learn about aspects of the topic we might never have considered or would have missed using a standard questionnaire. Alternatively, quantitative research allows us to take a nomothetic approach and make inferences about people in general. From these inferences, we can attempt to predict how different people would respond in the same situation.
Mixed Methods research uses qualitative and quantitative research as different phases during which information is gathered about the same research question. From the qualitative phase, we learn about the nuances of experience; unconstrained responses allow for unique information to be shared. From the quantitative phase, we capture specific information about a greater number of people; statistical methods summarize data and allow for inferences about the general population. Conducting both qualitative and quantitative research on a topic makes possible the synergy of information, yielding more insights than could be garnered from either method in isolation.
KJT Group regularly takes a mixed methods approach; often research begins with the qualitative phase to understand the landscape of perspectives. This then informs the development of the quantitative phase. Depending on the study goals, the qualitative phase could come second, garnering a more in-depth look at the quantitative phase’s results.
Another approach regularly used by KJT Group is conducting multi-methods research. Rather than combining qualitative and quantitative research, a multi-methods approach refers to the use of different tools within a single paradigm. Many different techniques are available for qualitative research: focus groups, structured interviews, unstructured interviews, etc. A multi-method qualitative study would employ more than one of these tools to examine the same question. Likewise, a multi-method quantitative study would incorporate different techniques to capture explicit and implicit attitudes. For example, a Conjoint, a Max Diff, and direct preference questions used in a single R&D study would capture different ways respondents may express their preferences for features of a new offering.
Every data collection method available has its own set of benefits and drawbacks; there is no single best method to answer a research question. By employing mixed methods and multi-methods research, we can maximize how much information is being collected. From these different sources, we can examine where the information converges and diverges. It is at both these points of convergence and divergence where we can recognize the elephant and overcome single-method blindness.
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