This past weekend saw BU Visiting Professor Padam Simkhada, who is a Professor of International Public Health in the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), delivering the keynote speech in an International Conference on Mixed-Methods Research (ICMMR 2019). His presentation at the conference, held at the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala (India), was held on Saturday. The next day (Sunday 24th February) the two Bournemouth University academics Dr. Pramod Regmi and Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen and facilitated a session on academic publishing under the heading “Meet the editors” via Skype. Over 200 delegates from 10 countries, mainly from India and other South Asian countries participated in the conference.BU focuses its global collaborations on three geographical areas, one of these is the Indian sub-continent. Connect India is BU’s strategic Hub of Practice for the Indian sub-continent, bringing together a community of researchers, educators, practitioners and students to collaborate with colleagues in India and Nepal.
Tagged / mixed methods
As part of the BU Researcher/Academic Development (BRAD) Programme, a session on Mixed Methods will be run by Dr. Joanne Mayoh tomorrow (8/4/16) from 11:00 AM.
This session will provide a broad overview of the practical and philosophical aspects of mixed methods research. The following areas will be outlined:
•Paradigmatic assumptions of post-positivist and constructivist/interpretivist research
•The key philosophical debates surrounding the paradigmatic stance of mixed methods inquiry
•Practical issues such as priority and sequence decisions, point of integration, write-up and dissemination
This session would be extremely useful for anyone thinking of using a Mixed Methods approach for their research, or those looking to develop their understanding of research paradigms more generally.
To book onto this course, please follow the following link.
Conducting mixed-methods research has become very popular over the past decade especially in the health research field.1-4 This development ties in with the growth in inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research. Many grant applications, PhD project and the resulting papers especially in the health field apply a mixed-methods approach, where in the past a single approach would have dominated. This interest in combining methods seems to be the case even in the more traditional quantitative field of clinical effectiveness and randomised controlled trials. Whilst I find this development encouraging as a mixed-methods social scientist, it also makes me wonder whether the applicants putting forward a mixed-methods project have thought about the disadvantages or at least the opportunity costs of using such approach.
A mixed-methods approach is ‘simply’ combining two or more research methods to address a research question, i.e. what the label suggests. It is often perceived as the combining of qualitative with quantitative methods, but it can technically also be a mix of quantitative methods or a combination of qualitative methods. The advantage of a mixed-methods approach is that the different methods in the mix address different aspects of the research question and that combining these methods offers a synergetic effect. So what are the possible limitations of or barriers to mixed-methods research?
First, using a mixed-methods approach means you need an understanding of two different philosophies and how to bring the findings of these two different methods together.4-6 One requires expertise in two different research approaches, either as individual or in the team as well as someone who can do the combining of the findings. For the latter you really need someone in the team who understand the pragmatic approach commonly used in mixed-methods approaches. Otherwise there is a great risk that the original mixed-methods study will be analysed and reported as two or more separate papers each based on data from one of the methods applied in the mixed-methods study.
Secondly, you can spend your money only once, hence there are opportunity costs. Thus if the maximum grant is £200,000 or £300,000 you can’t spend the full amount on the designing a large-scale quantitative study/survey, as you need to spend a proportion of your money and your attention and time on your qualitative study.
Thirdly, and related the above, both quantitative and qualitative methods have ‘rules’ about sampling and sample-size.5 Just because you have two methods this does not mean you can necessarily do a study with a smaller sample. The sample size calculations will still say you need at least xxx participants. Similarly, although perhaps not so rigidly you need a certain number of interviews or focus groups to do you qualitative study appropriately.
Fourthly, a common mistake seems to be to add a bit of qualitative research to a larger quantitative study, perhaps a bit tokenistic.7 Often it is so obvious in a grant application that the qualitative research is an add-on, an afterthought perhaps from a reviewer in the previous failed grant application.
Finally, not all mixed-methods studies are the same, in fact each mixed-methods study is more or less unique in the way in the way it mixes and matched individual research methods.3 So although mixed-methods may be the best way to address a particular research question, your particular proposed mixed of quantitative and qualitative research might not be the most appropriate to answer the overall research question.8
As with all research methods and research proposals my recommendation is if in doubt go and find an expert for advice.6 If necessary get an expert on your team of researchers to strengthen your application.
Professor Edwin van Teijlingen
- Barbour, R.S. (1999) The case of combining qualitative and quantitative approaches in health services research. Journal of Health Services Research Policy, 4(1): 39-43.
- Simkhada, P., van Teijlingen, E., Wasti, S.P., Sathian, B. (2014) Mixed-methods approaches in health research in Nepal, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology 4(5): 415-416.
- Plano Clark, V.L., Anderson, N., Wertz, J.A., Zhou, Y., Schumacher, K., Miaskowski, C. (2015) Conceptualizing Longitudinal Mixed Methods Designs: A Methodological Review of Health Sciences Research, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 9: 297-319.
- MacKenzie Bryers, H., van Teijlingen, E. Pitchforth, E. (2014) Advocating mixed-methods approaches in health research, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology 4(5): 417-422. http://www.nepjol.info/index.php/NJE/article/view/12018/9768
- Bryman, A. (1988) Quality and Quantity in Social Research, London: Routledge
- Bazeley, P. (2003) Teaching mixed methods. Qualitative Research Journal, 4: 117-126.
- Maxwell, J.A. (2016) Expanding the History and Range of Mixed Methods Research, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 10: 12-27.
- Brannen, J. (2005) Mixing methods: The entry of qualitative & quantitative approaches into the research process. International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8(3): 173-85.
The grand international conferences attracting up to 1,000 academics are highly prestigious, however the opportunities to find academics in a field, talk in-depth about approaches, concepts, methodologies, data and future ideas is constrained by the size and scale. Hence BU collaborated with Science-Po (Paris) and Sciencecomm (Audencia Nantes) to bring together scholars whose work has a specific focus on online political engagement in order to explore current thinking and investigate avenues for collaboration. The event #CPE2014 (http://www.cpe2014.com/) attracted 34 participants; some very established some just starting out in a research career, some invited some who submitted abstracts speculatively following the call. What connected the works was the objective of conceptually and empirically determining what engagement and participation means in the age of ubiquitous digital media.
The keynotes from Rachel Gibson (Manchester, UK) and Bruce Bimber (University of California, US) set the scene conceptually asking what is really new in the digital age, and arguing technology is a context for communication and for action as opposed to a cause. Many papers thus explored to what extent we can argue something new has emerged, what might that be and what in terms of political engagement and participation does digital technology facilitate.
What did we learn from this? It is no real surprise to hear of the breadth and depth of the forms and types of activities that online spaces provide. We know vast numbers of organisations, corporate, political and third sector, who populate the world wide web. We also know most of these have gravitated towards social media, having a Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter feed seem de rigeur at the very least. And we find many affordances for Interaction (Giraldo-Luque & Duran-Becerra) as well as learning and engaging (Schneidemesser; Vasilopoulos; de Blasio & Santaniello). The biggest questions revolve around impact, are there new forms of communication, of engagement, of participation, of influence that are a by-product (wanted or unwanted) with the colonisation of the social web?
As would be expected the answers to these questions offer mixed results, and any conclusions are tentative at best. One key theme is the notion of expressive participation, ‘having a say’ whether it be commenting or talking online (Kountouri or Bouillianne for example), acting as an online vigilante (Loveluck) or as a news gatherer (Wimmer & Schultz). The data from studies by Rachel Gibson and colleagues, Christian Vaccari and Homero Gil de Zuniga certainly provide compelling evidence to suggest expression as a pathway to deeper forms of participation. We also gain a sense of how influence can be exacted (Mossberger & Kao; Bang), though also that perhaps the social web can also be a distraction leading users away from the civic rather than more positive perspectives (Bojic). The visualization of forms of expression (Koc-Michalska, Lilleker & Wells; Vergeer, Boynton & Richardson) go some way to understanding some aspects of the nature of these expressions, though they raise issues regarding how to make sense of the big data which can be gathered from the Internet; discussions around this and the tools available was one key outcome of the workshop.
The workshop also showed the importance of mixed methods. We talked of understanding the lifeworld (Lilleker), how politics links with or is seen as separate from the everyday, and whether civic, social, political are the same or each have clear boundaries both conceptually and practically (Bang). But this raised the importance of mixed methods. Vergeer took us beyond the quantitative, sociological meat grinder of the survey which boils down human factors to key indicators, yet this exposes the contradiction when in exploring big data we have to mince and mash rich text resulting from complex behavior to get to the structure (the DNA) rather than the nuances of each individual contribution. Hence the interview (Bouillianne, Neys), ethnographic work (Ozkula) and text and diary entries (Cantioch) offers fascinating insights that can build understanding on top of the numbers (Vozab; Klinger: Hooghe for example).
The workshop therefore is part of a development in the understanding and a revisionist movement around the notions of engagement and participation and the theoretical positions which have to date been used to understand human civic and political behavior. The value of the meeting of these scholars was to identify the different strands of research, the expertise in the field, the current indications from data, the methodologies and where the research should go next. For us some will be exploring collaboration around a Horizon 2020 bid on youth as a driver of social change (YOUNGa-2014a), some further will be meeting again at the ECPR Joint workshops in Warsaw 2015 in a workshop again organized by Koc-Michalska and Lilleker, some will also likely find opportunities to share data and develop publications. A proposal for a special collection is in the pipeline gathering together the more empirically driven works. Hence this now tight-knit group may well remain close and develop as a collaborative network long into the future.