What type of research design combines qualitative and quantitative methods?

Combining qualitative and quantitative research within mixed method research designs: A methodological review

Author links open overlay panelUlrikaÖstlundaPersonEnvelopeLisaKiddbYvonneWengströmcNenehRowa-Deward

Show moreNavigate Down


Cited ByCite

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.10.005Get rights and content



It has been argued that mixed methods research can be useful in nursing and health science because of the complexity of the phenomena studied. However, the integration of qualitative and quantitative approaches continues to be one of much debate and there is a need for a rigorous framework for designing and interpreting mixed methods research. This paper explores the analytical approaches (i.e. parallel, concurrent or sequential) used in mixed methods studies within healthcare and exemplifies the use of triangulation as a methodological metaphor for drawing inferences from qualitative and quantitative findings originating from such analyses.


This review of the literature used systematic principles in searching CINAHL, Medline and PsycINFO for healthcare research studies which employed a mixed methods approach and were published in the English language between January 1999 and September 2009.


In total, 168 studies were included in the results. Most studies originated in the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada. The analytic approach most widely used was parallel data analysis. A number of studies used sequential data analysis; far fewer studies employed concurrent data analysis. Very few of these studies clearly articulated the purpose for using a mixed methods design. The use of the methodological metaphor of triangulation on convergent, complementary, and divergent results from mixed methods studies is exemplified and an example of developing theory from such data is provided.


A trend for conducting parallel data analysis on quantitative and qualitative data in mixed methods healthcare research has been identified in the studies included in this review. Using triangulation as a methodological metaphor can facilitate the integration of qualitative and quantitative findings, help researchers to clarify their theoretical propositions and the basis of their results. This can offer a better understanding of the links between theory and empirical findings, challenge theoretical assumptions and develop new theory.

According to the National Institutes of Health, mixed methods strategically integrates or combines rigorous quantitative and qualitative research methods to draw on the strengths of each. Mixed method approaches allow researchers to use a diversity of methods, combining inductive and deductive thinking, and offsetting limitations of exclusively quantitative and qualitative research through a complementary approach that maximizes strengths of each data type and facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of health issues and potential resolutions. Mixed methods may be employed to produce a robust description and interpretation of the data, make quantitative results more understandable, or understand broader applicability of small-sample qualitative findings.


This refers to the ways in which qualitative and quantitative research activities are brought together to achieve greater insight. Mixed methods is not simply having quantitative and qualitative data available or analyzing and presenting data findings separately. The integration process can occur during data collection, analysis, or in the presentation of results.

Basic Mixed Methods Research Designs 

What type of research design combines qualitative and quantitative methods?

View image description.

Five Key Questions for Getting Started

  • What do you want to know?
  • What will be the detailed quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research questions that you hope to address?
  • What quantitative and qualitative data will you collect and analyze?
  • Which rigorous methods will you use to collect data and/or engage stakeholders?
  • How will you integrate the data in a way that allows you to address the first question?

Rationale for Using Mixed Methods

  • Obtain different, multiple perspectives: validation
  • Build comprehensive understanding
  • Explain statistical results in more depth
  • Have better contextualized measures
  • Track the process of program or intervention
  • Study patient-centered outcomes and stakeholder engagement

Sample Mixed Methods Research Study

The EQUALITY study used an exploratory sequential design to identify the optimal patient-centered approach to collect sexual orientation data in the emergency department.

Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis: Semi-structured interviews with patients of different sexual orientation, age, race/ethnicity, as well as healthcare professionals of different roles, age, and race/ethnicity.

Builds Into: Themes identified in the interviews were used to develop questions for the national survey.

Quantitative Data Collection and Analysis: Representative national survey of patients and healthcare professionals on the topic of reporting gender identity and sexual orientation in healthcare.

Other Resources:

 Introduction to Mixed Methods Research: Harvard Catalyst’s eight-week online course offers an opportunity for investigators who want to understand and apply a mixed methods approach to their research.

Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences [PDF]: This guide provides a detailed overview of mixed methods designs, best practices, and application to various types of grants and projects.

Mixed Methods Research Training Program for the Health Sciences (MMRTP): Selected scholars for this summer training program, hosted by Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, have access to webinars, resources, a retreat to discuss their research project with expert faculty, and are matched with mixed methods consultants for ongoing support.

Michigan Mixed Methods: University of Michigan Mixed Methods program offers a variety of resources, including short web videos and recommended reading.

To use a mixed methods approach, you may want to first brush up on your qualitative skills. Below are a few helpful resources specific to qualitative research:

Which research design combines the qualitative and quantitative methods in research?

In mixed methods research, you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question.

Which method can combine both quantitative and qualitative information?

Integrated Design is an approach to mixed options evaluation where qualitative and quantitative data are integrated into an overall design.

Which model can be combined with qualitative research as well as quantitative research?

Mixed methods research allows data to be presented using complementary qualitative and quantitative analysis.

What research design mixes both quantitative and qualitative research and methods in a single study to understand research problems?

A mixed methods research design is a procedure for collecting, analyzing, and “mixing” both quantitative and qualitative research and methods in a single study to understand a research problem.