Project Management Principles for Optimizing Publication Productivity of Mixed Methods Studies

By Baim-Lance, Abigail; Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J. et al. | The Qualitative Report, March 2020 | Go to article overview

Project Management Principles for Optimizing Publication Productivity of Mixed Methods Studies


Baim-Lance, Abigail, Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J., Wisdom, Jennifer P., The Qualitative Report


Mixed methods research is challenging analytically and operationally. Analytical challenges have received the most attention (e.g., Tariq & Woodman, 2013), with less focus on logistical practicalities on how to execute high-quality projects. Limited guidance particularly exists to maximize publication opportunities, a central feature of mixed methods endeavors given (a) the field's roots in pragmatic philosophy (Onwuegbuzie & Corrigan, 2014) and (b) the importance of publications in describing scientific results, facilitating communication among scientists, recording a collective body of knowledge, and contributing to a scientific community (National Research Council, 2003). Mixed methods publications are particularly difficult to achieve, given the volume of diverse data and the accompanying challenges posed to publication norms in terms of article length and type. Drawing upon the project management literature and applying a pragmatic lens, we propose a project management framework to guide the conduct of mixed methods research, including a focus on how to increase research quality and manuscript publications throughout the research process. We also reflect on how mixed methods projects can be designed and executed well, including how to achieve publication success. We view publication success as achieving one's goals in disseminating findings, whether through peer-reviewed journals, other journals, or other means of providing information about findings to stakeholders. We focus on publications because they are the standard dissemination technique in academia.

Mixed Methods and Project Management: Conceptual Framework Mixed Methods Research as Complex Coordination

In-depth descriptions of mixed methods are discussed elsewhere (e.g., Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006) and we provide only a summary here. We define the purpose of a mixed methods project as one that combines quantitative and qualitative methodologies to solve or answer research questions (Onwuegbuzie & Corrigan, 2014). Qualitative data are open-ended information sources, typically collected via interviews, focus groups, images, document review, and/or observations. Quantitative data are numerical and include information collected using pre-defined instruments, checklists, surveys, and/or records like demographics and medical services. Data types are integrated in mixed methods studies to promote methodological pluralism, the thesis that the use of multiple methodological approaches in the course of scientific practice is legitimate (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004); and to offer a rich, complementary, and comprehensive understanding of research questions and investigated topics (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2006; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009). Indeed, this value added perspective implies that quality mixed methods studies leverage and integrate diverse methods to produce deep and broad knowledge that could not have been found if the methods had been used individually (Wisdom, Cavaleri, Onwuegbuzie, & Green, 2012).

Mixed methods projects offer advantages over single (i.e., mono-method) approach designs for complex topics that lend themselves to qualitative and quantitative research questions. Mixed methods projects, however, are resource intensive, and require complex coordination. Like all research, mixed methods undertakings include multiple phases (e.g., design, data collection and analysis; write up, and dissemination). However, in mixed methods endeavors, each stage of the project relies on the integration and coordination of design elements and findings collected by different individuals with complementary, diverse expertise (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009; Whitley, 2007). This teamwork is not always straightforward; in particular, O'Cathain, Murphy, and Nicholl (2008) note the potential for dysfunction to ensue. Further, mixed methods studies tend to be more costly (Niglas, 2004) due to numerous personnel and their activities, and the time needed to develop integrated study designs and proposals, train interdisciplinary teams, and hold regular planning and operational meetings (NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences, 2018). …

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