Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Linking Research Questions to Mixed Methods Data Analysis Procedures (1)

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Linking Research Questions to Mixed Methods Data Analysis Procedures (1)

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the development of research questions in mixed methods studies. First, we discuss the ways that the goal of the study, the research objective(s), and the research purpose shape the formation of research questions. Second, we compare and contrast quantitative research questions and qualitative research questions. Third, we describe how to write mixed methods research questions, which we define as questions that embed quantitative and qualitative research questions. Finally, we provide a framework for linking research questions to mixed methods data analysis techniques. A major goal of our framework is to illustrate that the development of research questions and data analysis procedures in mixed method studies should occur logically and sequentially. Key Words: Mixed Methods, Quantitative Research Questions, Qualitative Research Questions, and Mixed Methods Data Analysis

Setting the Scene

Conducting mixed methods research involves collecting, analyzing, and interpreting quantitative and qualitative data in a single study or in a series of studies that investigate the same underlying phenomenon. As noted by Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004, p. 17), "its logic of inquiry includes the use of induction (or discovery of patterns), deduction (testing of theories and hypotheses), and abduction (uncovering and relying on the best of a set of explanations for understanding one's results)." Because of its logical and intuitive appeal, providing a bridge between the qualitative and quantitative paradigms, an increasing number of researchers are utilizing mixed methods research to undertake their studies.

As conceptualized by Collins, Onwuegbuzie, and Sutton (2006), mixed methods research can be conceptualized as comprising the following 13 distinct steps:

1. determining the goal of the study

2. formulating the research objective(s),

3. determining the research/mixing rationale,

4. determining the research/mixing purpose,

5. determining the research question(s),

6. selecting the sampling design

7. selecting the mixed methods research design,

8. collecting the data,

9. analyzing the data,

10. validating/legitimating the data,

11. interpreting the data,

12. writing the mixed methods research report, and

13. reformulating the research question(s).

This process is illustrated in Figure 1.


The Importance of Questions

Determining the research question(s) is an extremely important step in both the quantitative research process and the qualitative research process because these questions narrow the research objective and research purpose to specific questions that researchers attempt to address in their studies (Creswell, 2005; Johnson & Christensen, 2004). However, research questions are even more important in mixed methods research because mixed methods researchers make use of the pragmatic method and system of philosophy. As such, in mixed methods studies, research questions drive the methods used (Newman & Benz, 1998; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Moreover, research questions in mixed methods studies are vitally important because they, in large part, dictate the type of research design used, the sample size and sampling scheme employed, and the type of instruments administered as well as the data analysis techniques (i.e., statistical or qualitative) used.

Unfortunately, forming research questions is much more difficult in mixed methods studies than in monomethod (i.e., quantitative or qualitative) investigations because it involves the formation of both quantitative and qualitative research questions within the same inquiry. Thus, it is surprising that an extensive review of the literature revealed no guidance as to how to write research questions specifically in mixed methods studies. …

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