Table 6: A Guide to the decision-making process on whether to use mixed research methods
Question? Explanation regarding your research design Terminology
Do you wish to confirm the accuracy of your findings? You want to see the convergence of results from different methods in order to confirm what you have found with one method is valid through the use of another method. Using two research approaches to ask similar questions is called triangulation.
Do you want to elaborate the results from one approach with another approach? It is important to elaborate, enhance, illustrate or clarify the results from one method with the results from another. Using one research approach to further elaborate the results from a different approach is called complementarity.
Do you want to use the results from one research method to inform the development of additional data collection? When results from one method help to develop the subsequent data collection method, by informing the sample as well as measurement decisions (e.g. questions to ask, scales to use). Using one research method to sequentially inform the other is called development.
Have you have discovered or expect to discover something new or contradictory with one method, and you want to try and understand that new or contradictory thing better? When one data collection method reveals results that are unexpected or contradictory to what is understood to be true, re-asking the same questions using a different methodological approach can lend more understanding. Using one research method to further explore contradictory results from another research method is called initiation.
Do you want to maximize your understanding? Extending the range of enquiry by using different methods for different components of enquiry. This combination of approaches, called expansion, will allow you to extend your data collection methods more widely.