How to combine qualitative and quantitative research

Although both quantitative and qualitative methods are frequently applied separately, the truth is that its combination is more and more common. Actually, it is a broadly covered issue in the literature. Bryman (1992) identifies up to eleven ways of integrating both perspectives. On top of that, some authors suggests that such combination is worthy of being qualified as intellectual movement (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003b: ix) If quantitative research and methods are seen as the first, qualitative research as the second movement, the so called “mixed methodology” is declared to be “a third methodological movement”.

Here four different ways of combining quali and quanti are highlighted:

1. Dominance of quantitative over qualitative methods: using qualitative methods to explore a particular topic in order to set up a quantitative study. For example, in the case of wine industry. If you are designing a questionnaire on wine consumption it may be useful to begin by holding a focus group. The identification of the most relevant topics for the participants may be useful to test which topics will be included later in the questionnaire. Also, some of the statements may be converted into standard questions and consequently, being quantified when analyzing the survey results, as in the example bellow:

“On a scale from 1 to 5 where “1” means strongly disagree and “5” strongly agree, where would you rate you level of agreement with the following statements:

1. I never know which type of wine goes with each food

2. Wine is too expensive in comparison with other alcohol drinks

Results suggest that 50% of population strongly agree with the statement “Wine is too expensive in comparison with other alcohol drinks” while just a 20% seems to agree with the statement “I never know which type of wine goes with each food”

2. Superiority of qualitative over quantitative methods. Beginning with quantitative study in order to establish a sample of respondents and identify the size of your potential market and then using qualitative to provide a more general picture of some particular target, as we have seen in the case study about José.

3. Linking qualitative and quantitative in one design. Both approaches may be applied at the same time and repeatedly. For instance, after having developed a phone survey following information obtained in a focus group, the results of such survey may be tested in a second group afterwards. What about beginning with a survey? then a field study and finally an experiment using statistic software. Or just by mean a continuous collection of both sorts of data. This is very well illustrated in Miles and Huberman (1994) typology. These authors outline four types of designs for integrating both approaches in one design:

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Miles and Huberman´s research designs for the integration of qualitative and quantitative research. Adapted from Flick, U. (2009)

4. Triangulation of methods. Neither qualitative nor quantitative is seen as superior or preliminary. They complement each other. The organization of a focus group hasn´t been set up as a preliminary stage of a phone survey, but just as a different way of analyze the same phenomenon. Sometimes, even Triangulationpeople interviewed in a phone survey are invited to take part of a focus group. The answers in the survey are analyzed for their frequency and distribution across the sample (20% of population consume wine twice a week; the older the consumer the higher the frequency of consuming). Then the answers in the focus group are analyzed and compared, and, for example, a categorization is developed (three kinds of consumers have been identified within the focus group: consumer A or “weekend consumer, consumer B or “everyday consumer” and consumer C “sporadic consumer”) Then the distribution of the questionnaire answer and the categories are linked and compared. Furthermore, as we will have the opportunity to cover in future posts, the triangulation may take place with regard to data and analysis too.

Reference

Bryman, A. (1992). Quantitative and qualitative research: further reflections on their integration. Mixing methods: Qualitative and quantitative research, 57-78. Seen in Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage Publications, Incorporated. Seen in Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.
Teddlie, C., & Tashakkori, A. (2003). Major issues and controveries inthe use of mixed methods in the social and behvioral sciences. Handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research, 3-50.
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