Mixed Methods: An Innovative Approach to Complex Research
The SWMD Urban Landscape and Park project is complex in vision, scale, and scope of work. It brings together multiple organizations and communities with diverse voices, perspectives, experiences, and needs. And because of this complexity TTF is using Mixed Methods Research (MMR).
MMR integrates qualitative and quantitative methodologies into a cohesive, systemic, and holistic research framework. It purposefully draws upon the strengths of each methodology, allowing diverse perspectives and voices to be uncovered and more complex layers of problems to be revealed. By using MMR, researchers can tackle more complex phenomena and hard-to-measure research questions. This in turn leads to a deeper and more insightful understanding of research problems.
Most researchers know that quantitative data can tell you WHAT a problem is, but it can’t tell you WHY there is a problem, only qualitative data can do that. The reason for this distinction is that quantitative and qualitative methodologies are designed to do different things. Quantitative methodologies are used when research focuses on issues related to quantity, amount, and range. Quantitative methods are designed to answer questions about “how many,” “how much,” and “how often.” By contrast, qualitative data is used when the research focus is directed toward qualities, attributes, and characteristics. Qualitative research is mainly concerned with measuring the intricacies and nuances of real-life human behaviors, including emotions, perspectives, voice, and experiences. These types of qualities and characteristics cannot be understood through numbers; they must be unraveled through narratives, context, and meaning. When both methodologies are combined, a fuller and more complete understanding of a research problem emerges.
Although MMR emerged in the mid-1980s, it is only recently that it’s use has begun to widen in health care research. This growth reflects the complexity of health-related research that is being undertaken, as well as new funding directives which increasingly recognize the value and utility of MMR.
As TTF moves forward with the SWMD project, we will be drawing upon a wide range of innovative MMR tools, including Journey Mapping, ethnography, trend analysis, Listening Circles, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Stay tuned for updates!