Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Mixed Research Methods: Reflections on Social Public Policy

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Mixed Research Methods: Reflections on Social Public Policy

Article excerpt


The paper highlights methodological tensions among quantitative and qualitative researchers on mixed methods. It discusses mixed methods and paradigm wars-qualitative and quantitative methods. It provides justifications or reasons for using one research method over another method. The paper discusses case studies and the instruments of data collection and analysis in my research project. My paper adopts a comparative case study approach using mixed methods.

Keywords: mixed research methods, qualitative methods, quantitative methods, case studies, comparative case study, interviews, focus groups discussions, documents, observations

1. Introduction

The paper highlights key issues in my research project. My project examines the implementation process and the output of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). My project seeks to find answers to main operational research question: what factors and or actors account for or explain the differences between public and private hospitals and clinics in the implementation of NHIS at local level in Ghana?

2. The Paradigm Wars-Qualitative and Quantitative Methods Debate

In this paper I examine 'compatibility and incompatibility theses. Some scholars (compatibilists) view combining qualitative and quantitative methods as good and useful. They argue that no incompatibility exist between qualitative and quantitative methods either in research practice or epistemological paradigm. Researchers need to focus on the research method(s) most suitable for their study or investigation, thus researchers should focus on 'what works' (Howe, 1988). Other scholars (incompatibilists) hold view that the two research methods (qualitative and quantitative) are incompatible. They argue along epistemological paradigms: positivist (quantitative/value-free) and interpretativist (qualitative/value-laden), they indicate that the two paradigms are incompatible (Howe, 1985; Howe, 1988). Onwuegbuzie and Leech (2005) call this category of methodologists "purists"; for they advocate mono-method studies. What is the way out between compatibilist and incompatibilist positions? Giddens suggests "double hermeneutic" combination of scientific vocabulary of social science and natural vocabulary of social conduct to capture important elements in both interpretativist paradigm ('experience-near' concepts) and positivist paradigm ('experience-distant' concepts) for better understanding (Giddens, 1976; cited in Howe, 1988, p. 14). Giddens approach is toward combination of paradigms (compatibilist viewpoint) to supplant incompatibility paradigm. My approach is the combination of the two paradigms.

I examine some explanations scholars or social researchers offer for combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. A social researcher adopts one research method or combines qualitative and quantitative methods in the same study on the recognition that 'different methods have different strengths' (Morgan, 1998). Some methodologists cite good reasons for the use of multiple research methods. One reason is due to complexity of different factors that influence a phenomenon for instance health related studies-nursing, health and culture relationships (Carey, 1993). Other researchers see combination of qualitative and quantitative methods as 'technical problem' (Brannen, 1992; Bryman, 1984; 1988). Yet these scholars are quite optimistic technical challenge can be resolve by methodologists through viable research design using both qualitative and quantitative data. There is challenge of making distinction between epistemological issues (positivism, phenomenology) and technical issues dealing with qualitative-quantitative divide (participant observations, social survey) in research (Bryman, 1984). Another difficulty in using qualitative and quantitative research methods come from 'conflicts between different paradigms' (Creswell, 1994; Guba & Lincoln, 1994). This tradition view is methodologists who combine qualitative and quantitative methods either tend to ignore the paradigms or tackle them at surface level. …

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