Can I Combine Qualitative And Quantitative Methods?

Qualitative and Quantitative research provides a deep understanding of the problem in separate manner. Qualitative researches are often to be of understanding the personal views of the people, whereas quantitative researches are of concrete statistics and generalization of the population through the samples. However, there has been an increasing trend from early 90’s in combining the quantitative and qualitative research which in turns delivers significant insights about the problem. In this blog, I will list out the benefits of combining both researches to give meaningful results of the study.

  • In earlier studies, the qualitative researches are being conducted face-to-face. However, with the advent of digital technologies, the qualitative research can be conducted through online mode where the respondents share the information which you need in less time. In addition, the qualitative and quantitative data can be collected with the same survey and with the same respondents in this online mode of data collection.

  • Having the data collected from the online survey, now the researcher can develop a hypothesis of the problem whether it is of understanding the problem or validate a hypothesis of interest (qualitative) or to explore the scope of the problem (quantitative) with the same respondent group.

  • Combining the qualitative and quantitative research often saves time in the case of market research analysis. For example, consider a online shopping survey, here the researcher wants to know the pattern of people purchasing the product and the pattern of people not purchasing the product from a website.

    The research problem is multi-fold, i.e, the people may add a product to the cart and leaves the website without shopping or the people may do a window shopping or the people may search for products for the new arrivals or the people may leave the website because of no trial experience without purchasing. Thus, the problem can be taken as both qualitative and quantitative in a single sample survey. Combining the two research may lead to reduce the time of data collection, reduce the cost, and resources.

As in the case of earlier example, the combination of both qualitative and quantitative research gives more deeper insights about the problem and it allow us to satisfy the customer needs in a timely manner with a proper decision through the statistical analysis.

The researches in early 80’s are often of either qualitative or quantitative in nature. However, you can optimize the research interest with mixing both at a time. Though it may not sounds good in certain area of research, but it becomes a common paradigm in many statistical practices. Qualitative and quantitative methods can be combined at various point of view, i.e either at the time of data collection or at the analysis of data. In practice, there are three different research designs to combine these both research in a single survey. They are

  • Explanatory Design
  • Exploratory Design
  • Parallel Convergence Design

Let’s see each of this in detail.

Explanatory Design

In an explanatory design, there are two possibilities of conducting a mixed research (i) the observations are recorded in qualitative manner and the analyses are conducted using quantitative manner by converting the text data into numbers say, number of times good opinion recorded or the number of times person purchased a product, and (ii) collect a large sample for quantitative study and from that collect a sub sample with small size and conduct qualitative research for getting more detailed opinions about the problem.

Let me explain you the second case with an example. Suppose, the researcher is interested in finding the shopping experience of 10 mobile websites and he/she constructed a questionnaire on the topic and conducted a large comparative study using quantitative measures. Then with the statistical results, he/she wants to explore the shopping experience in more precise manner. So, small samples of say, 15 respondents are chosen from the population and conducted a face-to-face interview and analysed the data in qualitative manner. Here the researcher used a new set of 15 participants for the study. However, one can select a sub sample from the previous samples and proceed with the analysis.

Explanatory Design

In an explanatory design, the study starts from qualitative to quantitative

Exploratory design is something like a pilot study. First we make use of small participants and test the research hypothesis and then develop the idea to a quantitative research.

Parallel Convergent Design

So far, we have seen that the data is being collected separately that is either quantitative or qualitative manner. Here, in the case of parallel convergent design, the qualitative and quantitative data is being collected simultaneously but independently and taken forward for the statistical data analysis. In analysing this kind of mixed data, the research interest often to compare and contrast the findings of the study and identify if there is any pattern in the data.

Suppose a company executive wants to identify patterns in the purchase of products who are shopping from an online store and who are shopping from the showroom. Thus, the company executive decided to conduct a qualitative research for the persons shopping from showroom and quantitative research for the online shopping. Then the executive combines and converge the findings to deliver meaning insights to develop the business standard.

In conclusion, If you still have a question of whether to combine the qualitative and quantitative research, then my answer is a Big Yes! you can combine these two according to the research needs and keep a clear track of the data is collected and the statistical analysis you use to deliver proper inference of the problem.

  1. Brewer, J. & Hunter, A. (1989) Multimethod research: A synthesis of styles. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

  2. Bryman, A. (1992) Quantitative and qualitative research: further reflections on their integration. In Brannen, J. (ed) Mixing Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Aldershot: Avebury.

  3. Caracelli, V.W. & Greene, J.C. (1993) Data analysis strategies for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 15(2), pp. 195-207.

  4. Carey, J.W. (1993) Linking qualitative and quantitative methods: Integrating cultural factors into public health. Qualitative Health Research, 3, pp. 298-318.

  5. Cresswell, J.W. (1995) Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage.

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