Qualitative research refers to a study that seeks to explore issues and understand phenomena using in depth interviews, focus groups, ethnography, evaluation, content analysis among other techniques. Qualitative research often relies on unstructured data such as literature reviews, open-ended responses, pictures and audio recordings. On the other hand, quantitative research refers to studies that involve empirical investigations to evaluate relationships between variables using mathematical and statistical techniques. Quantitative research often relies on numerical data. Mixed research methods combine both qualitative methods and quantitative methods. This paper seeks to explore why recently researchers use both quantitative and qualitative research designs in the same study.
Qualitative methods and quantitative methods have differing strengths and weaknesses. Some of the strengths of one technique are the weaknesses of another. Therefore, these two methodologies can complement each other. Qualitative research is inductive whereas quantitative research is deductive. Therefore, combining both qualitative and quantitative research designs will results in a study that is both inductive and deductive. Whereas quantitative methods identify the relationship between variables, qualitative methods are needed to explain this relationship. In addition, quantitative methods studies behaviour in controlled conditions while qualitative methods study behaviour in the natural environment. Therefore, when both methods are combined it is possible to study behaviour in several conditions or environments.
Health researchers have seen the need to change from the traditional emphasis on a single inquiry method to mixed research methodologies. This can be evidenced by recent studies on chronic illnesses which by their nature should be studies by both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Effective research on chronic illnesses requires mixed research methods as well as longitudinal study programs so that the experience of chronic condition management could captured over time.
Casebeer, A. L., & Verhoef , M. J. (2007). Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods: Considering the Possibilities for Enhancing the Study of Chronic Diseases. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 1-10.
Johnson, P. (2010, May 10). Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Research. Retrieved April 22, 2013, from http://www.southalabama.edu: http://www.southalabama.edu/coe/bset/johnson/lectures/lec2.pdf