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Combining qualitative and quantitative methods in research practice: purposes and advantages

by U. Kelle
Qualitative Research in Psychology ()

Abstract

Despite ongoing ‘paradigm wars’ between the methodological traditions of qualitative and quantitative research, ‘mixed methods’ represents nowadays a rapidly developing field of social science methodology. In such discussions it is often emphasized that the use of methods should be predominantly influenced by substantive research questions, and not only by methodological and epistemological considerations. As all methods have specific limitations as well as particular strengths, many discussants propose that qualitative and quantitative methods should be combined in order to compensate for their mutual and overlapping weaknesses. However, although a variety of proposals have been made for a taxonomy of mixed-methods designs, there is yet a lack of agreement regarding basic concepts and definitions, as is bemoaned by many experts in this field. This lack of common ground is due to the fact that crucial questions regarding the relations between research domains and methods have been not sufficiently discussed yet. For which types of research questions qualitative and quantitative methods are suited better? What are typical weaknesses and strengths of qualitative and quantitative methods in relation to particular research domains? The paper addresses these questions by discussing several examples from research projects that have combined qualitative and quantitative methods. Thereby it will be shown that the purposes of method integration are twofold: it can serve for the mutual validation of data and findings as well as for the production of a more coherent and complete picture of the investigated domain than monomethod research can yield.

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