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Integr Psych Behav (2008) 42:266290 DOI 10.

1007/s12124-008-9078-3 C O M M E N TA RY

Quantitative and Qualitative Research: Beyond the Debate

Omar Gelo & Diana Braakmann & Gerhard Benetka

Published online: 16 September 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Abstract Psychology has been a highly quantitative field since its conception as a science. However, a qualitative approach to psychological research has gained increasing importance in the last decades, and an enduring debate between quantitative and qualitative approaches has arisen. The recently developed Mixed Methods Research (MMR) addresses this debate by aiming to integrate quantitative and qualitative approaches. This article outlines and discusses quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research approaches with specific reference to their (1) philosophical foundations (i.e. basic sets of beliefs that ground inquiry), (2) methodological assumptions (i.e. principles and formal conditions which guide scientific investigation), and (3) research methods (i.e. concrete procedures for data collection, analysis and interpretation). We conclude that MMR may reasonably overcome the limitation of purely quantitative and purely qualitative approaches at each of these levels, providing a fruitful context for a more comprehensive psychological research. Keywords Research methods . Quantitative . Qualitative . Mixed methods research Psychological research has relied heavily on experimental and correlational techniques to test theory using quantitative data. This is because psychology, like other behavioural disciplines, has been dominated by a positivist/post-positivist paradigm. However, criticism toward this way of conducting research during the past few decades has emerged. While qualitative research approaches (e.g., Silverman 2004) have been developed starting from completely different philosophical assumptions, such as phenomenology and hermeneutics, some quantitative
O. Gelo (*) : D. Braakmann Department of Psychotherapeutic Sciences, Sigmund Freud UniversityVienna, Schnirchgasse 9a, 1030 Vienna, Austria e-mail: G. Benetka Department of Psychology, Sigmund Freud UniversityVienna, Schnirchgasse 9a, 1030 Vienna, Austria

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researchers (e.g. Michell 1999, 2000; Toomela 2008) have become self-critical about their own research approach. For example, Michell (1999) provided a critical historical overview of the concept of measurement in psychology, identifying two main issues: (1) most quantitative research is based upon the fact that psychological attributes can be measured in a quantitative way rather than upon empirical investigation of the issue; (2) most quantitative researchers adopt a defective definition of measurement, thinking that measurement is simply the assignment of numbers to objects and events according to specific rules. In a similar way, Toomela (2008) recently showed how (1) quantitative variables may encode information ambiguously, and how (2) statistical analysis may not always allow a meaningful theoretical interpretation, because of ambiguity of information encoded in variables, and because of intrinsic limitation of statistical procedures. According to these authors, there is a fundamental issue which has been often ignored within quantitative research: the issue of the ontology and epistemology of variables (Michell 1999; Toomela 2008). Hence the basic concern is what information is encoded in quantitative variables supposed to represent mental phenomena (ontology of a variable), and how this kind of information may enlighten us about the relationship between these mental phenomena (epistemology of a variable). Toomela (2008) concludes that without a clear understanding of what information is encoded in a variable, it is not possible to meaningfully interpret events and their relationship on the basis of any statistical analyses. Is this a no-way-out situation? Do we have to abandon quantitative research approaches? We do not think so. Do we have then to improve and refine the existing quantitative methodologies? We think this would be a more favourable solution. However, we believe that a change of perspective is needed, which should primarily involve the way research is conceived. Qualitative research approaches could be an interesting solution in this regard. Nonetheless, we claim that there is an even more appropriate alternative, which consists of integrating quantitative and qualitative research approaches. In the present paper we will in the first place introduce the current debate between quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Then we will make a step back and review respectively quantitative and qualitative research approaches in terms of their specific paradigmatic postulates, methodological assumptions and research methods. Thereupon we will describe the Mixed Method Research, a relatively recent approach which combines and integrates qualitative and qualitative research at different levels. Our aim is to show how such an approach may overcome the limitations of purely quantitative or qualitative approaches, providing a fruitful context for a more comprehensive psychological research.

The Debate Between Quantitative and Qualitative Research To study human beings, psychologists have commonly followed either a quantitative or qualitative approach. From an etymological point of view, the former implicates determining how much of an entity there is, while the latter is involved in describing the constituent properties of an entity. Indeed, much psychological research reflects the essence of this distinction. A great deal of quantitative research is concerned with


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counting occurrences, volumes, or the size of the associations between entities, while qualitative research aims to provide rich or thick (Geertzt 1973) descriptive accounts of the phenomenon under investigation. Quantitative and qualitative research approaches clearly differ in terms of how data are collected and analyzed. Quantitative research requires the reduction of phenomena to numerical values in order to carry out statistical analysis. By contrast, qualitative research involves collection of data in a non-numerical form, i.e. texts, pictures, videos, etc. However, quantitative and qualitative approaches also differ particularlyin regard to the aims of scientific investigation as well as the underlying paradigms and meta-theoretical assumptions. According to quantitative approaches, psychological and social phenomena have an objective reality. The relationships between these phenomena are investigated in terms of generalizable causal effects, which in turn allow prediction. By contrast, qualitative approaches consider reality as socially and psychologically constructed. The aim of scientific investigation is to understand the behaviour and the culture of humans and their groups from the point of view of those being studied (Bryman 1988, p. 46). An attempt is usually made to understand a small number of participants own frames of reference or worldviews, rather than trying to test hypotheses on a large sample. Quantitative approaches have always dominated mainstream psychological research. Since the conception of psychology as a science in the nineteenth century, quantitative approaches have prevailed. As stated by Danziger (1985) in analogy to Kants categorical imperative, they have become the methodological imperative. However, since the 1960s various psychologists, especially those dealing with social phenomena, have begun to criticize such an approach to the investigation of the human nature. They have proposed a naturalistic, contextualbased and holistic understanding of the human being, which has come to be known as the qualitative approach. Since this approach has gained ground within psychology (see e.g. Smith 2003), it sparked a debate about the appropriateness of either quantitative or qualitative approaches in psychological research (Patton 1988). Those two diverse approaches could just be viable options; instead, they have become rather entrenched ideological positions (Todd et al. 2004). The QuantitativeQualitative Debate (QQD) has been sustained by several factors which can be mainly ascribed to the underlying philosophical and methodological assumptions and the related research methods (Bryman 1984; Krantz 1995). Some authors emphasize the incompatibility of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Their basic argument is that the meta-theoretical paradigms underlying the two approaches are so different that any reconciliation between them would destroy the philosophical foundations of each (Lincoln and Guba 1985; Noblitt and Hare 1988; Rosenberg 1988). As noted by Bryman (1984), the QQD is based to a large extent on epistemological issues, and questions relating to research techniques are systematically related to these issues. Some other authors, though, assume a more pragmatic position. According to them, it is both possible to subscribe to the philosophy of one approach and employ the methods of the other (Reichardt and Cook 1979; Steckler et al. 1992). Recently, the so called Mixed Methods Research (i.e. Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003b) has been developed, which aims to combine and to some extent integrate different methodological and research method perspectives of both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Following these emergent trends, the

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current QQD can be re-defined with reference to both a methodologically integrated and an empirically grounded, practice-oriented set of investigations. In this way, controversial philosophical issues may be seemingly bypassed (Krantz 1995) or combined, and discussions take place at the point of which research strategy is more likely to investigate specific phenomena.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research Scientific investigation can be characterized by a set of philosophical and metatheoretical assumptions concerning the nature of reality (ontology), knowledge (epistemology), and the principles inspiring and governing scientific investigation (methodology), as well as by technical issues regarding the practical implementation of a study (research methods). The latter can be considered as deriving from the former, i.e. the choice of a particular philosophical position and methodology leads to a preference for a particular research method on the grounds of its appropriateness within that specific philosophical and methodological orientation. While philosophical and meta-theoretical assumptions underlie the worldviews constraining the kinds of questions we try to answer, and the principles governing our research approach, research methods specify the practical implementation of our scientific investigation in terms of data collection, analysis and interpretation. The main features characterizing quantitative and qualitative approaches may be described with respective reference to their philosophical foundations, methodological assumptions, and to the research methods they employ. Differences at each of these levels have contributed to sustain the QQD. Worldviews and Philosophical Foundations All research needs a foundation for its inquiry, which is provided by worldviews and scientific paradigms. Worldviews imply how we view and, thus, think about research and go about conducting it. Similarly, scientific paradigms contain a basic set of beliefs or assumptions that guide our inquiries (Guba and Lincoln 2005). With reference to quantitative and qualitative research approaches, three main worldviews may be identified: objectivism (according to which reality exists independent from consciousness), subjectivism (according to which subjective experience is fundamental to any knowledge process), and constructivism (according to which knowledge is a construction resulting from the interaction between individuals and their social world)1. The different worldviews and paradigms underlying quantitative and qualitative approaches are reflected in different conceptions about the nature of reality (ontology) and knowledge (epistemology). Quantitative paradigms see reality as

Objectivism is often associated with quantitative research approaches and has been articulated at a metatheoretical and philosophical level in logical positivism and critical rationalism. On the contrary, subjectivism and constructivism are typically associated with qualitative investigation, and have been expressed at a meta-theoretical and philosophical level, among others, in phenomenology, hermeneutics and symbolic interactionism.


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single and tangible, where the knower and the known are considered as relatively separate and independent. Qualitative paradigms, however, view reality as a multiple, socially and psychologically constructed phenomenon, where the knower and the known are inextricably connected to each other. Modern social and psychological sciences developed at the end of the 19th century. At that time, the natural sciences were established and well known, accompanied by an enthusiastic faith in scientific progress. Social and psychological sciences thus imported the current scientific ideal of an axiomatic knowledge to be expressed, at best, in a mathematical form, with great emphasis on measures, tests and experiments. This approach, which presupposes quantification, has its foundationsfrom the perspective of philosophy of sciencein the logical positivism of the so-called first Vienna circle, and in the critical rationalism of Karl Popper in the 1930s (Westermann 1987; see also Miller 1994). Qualitative approaches to the study of the human being have developed since the 19th century as an alternative to the dominant social and psychological research. These go back to the philosophical tradition of phenomenology, hermeneutics, and symbolic interactionism, and reflect the emergent willingness to defend the integrity of human sciences as distinct from the natural sciences. Phenomenology (see Moran 2000) deals with the study of mental phenomena as experienced from the firstperson point of view (Smith 2003). Hermeneutics can be defined as a specific system or method for interpretation (Dilthey 1989), and involves cultivating the ability to understand things from somebody elses point of view. Finally, symbolic interactionism (see Blumer 1969) claims that human beings act toward things on the basis of attributed meanings, which are constructed within social interaction. Methodological Assumptions General Issues The worldviews and philosophical assumptions described above are reflected in different methodologies. Methodology is the study and logic of research methods, and refers to principles governing the research activity; it can be defined as a set of rules, principles and formal conditions which ground and guide scientific inquiry in order to organize and increase our knowledge about phenomena. More specifically, methodology establishes which kind of relationship exists between the researchers observation, theory, hypothesis and research methods (see next paragraph). Quantitative and qualitative approaches present different methodologies which, as in the case of their paradigmatic foundations, have deeply contributed to maintain the QQD (see Table 1). The former are usually described to adopt a nomothetic methodology, while the latter adopt an idiographic methodology. This distinction was introduced by Windelband (see Lamiell 1998) in order to differentiate the science of general laws that govern generality (nomothetic) from the science of specific events, which describe the particular, the unique, and the individual (idiographic). Nomothetic science (from the Greek nomos = law, and thesis = proposition) consists of the establishment, collection and assimilation of facts with the exclusive aim of recognizing and formulating laws that are always and in every circumstance immutable and universally applicable (tendency to generalize). This characterizes the natural sciences. In contrast, idiographic science (from the Greek

Integr Psych Behav (2008) 42:266290 Table 1 Attributes of quantitative and qualitative methodologies Quantitative approaches Nomothetic Extensive Generalizing Explanation Prediction Generalization Deduction Theory-driven Hypotheses-testing Verification-oriented (confirmatory) Experimental True-experiments Quasi-experiments Non-experimental Correlational Correlationalcomparative Correlationalcausalcomparative Ex-post-facto Internal validity Statistical conclusion validity Construct validity Causal validity Generalizability External validity Qualitative approaches Idiographic Intensive Individualizing Comprehension Interpretation Contextualization


Induction Data-driven Hypotheses-generating Discovery-oriented (exploratory) Naturalistic Case-study (narrative) Discourse analysis Conversation analysis Focus group Grounded theory Ethnographic

Internal validity Descriptive validity Interpretative validity Explanatory validity

Generalizability Transferability

idios = own, private, and graphein = to write, to describe) consists of the representation of an individual event of singular, temporally limited reality as completely as possible with the objective of recording, and comprehending it in its factuality (tendency to individualize). This is characteristic of historical and human sciences, which thus reveal their nature as sciences of specific events. It is important to observe that the same objects of scientific investigation can be made subject of either nomothetic or idiographic investigation. There is a very close interplay between both approaches: each idiographic science with regard to its general concepts must refer back to nomothetic disciplines. On the other hand, every general law is based on the observation of many different individual cases. Therefore it is suggested to consider both methodologies as the extremes of a continuum. The difference between these two approaches can be best outlined with reference to the dichotomy between explanation and comprehension. Explanation represents the establishment of connections between facts through regularities that we observe. Comprehension, by contrast, is the reconstruction of how someone else has established connections between facts through regularities they observed (KckeisStangl 1980). Quantitative approaches tend to explain, i.e. to verify if observed


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phenomena and their systematic relationship confirm the prediction made by a theory. Qualitative approaches, in turn, tend to comprehend, i.e. aspire to reconstruct the personal perspectives, experiences and understandings of the individual actors. Thus, while quantitative approaches are usually deductive and theory-driven (i.e. they observe specific phenomena on the base of specific theories of reference), qualitative ones are inductive and data-driven (i.e. they start from the observation of phenomena in order to build up theories about those phenomena). In quantitative approaches, hypotheses are deductively derived from the theory and have then to be falsified through empirical investigation (confirmatory study). In qualitative approaches, however, the development of hypothesis is part of the research process itself, whose aim is to develop an adequate theory according to the observations that have been made (exploratory study). Research Designs Each methodology (quantitative vs. qualitative) makes use of specific research designs (see Table 1). A research design is the plan of actions or structure which links the philosophical foundations and the methodological assumptions of a research approach to its research methods (see next paragraph), in order to provide credible, accountable and legitimate answers to the research questions. Rigorous research designs are important as they guide the methods decisions that researchers must make during their studies and set the logic by which they make interpretations at the end of their studies. Research designs within the quantitative approach include experimental and non-experimental designs. Experimental designs make causal inferences about the relationship between an independent and one or more dependent variables. They are characterized by the direct manipulation of the independent variable and by a rigorous control of extraneous variables2. In those situations where the independent variable cannot be manipulated, a non-experimental design has to be implemented. The primary aim of such a design is to describe the relationship between two or more variables of interest3. Contrary to quantitative research approacheswhich employ experimental and non-experimental designsqualitative approaches make use of naturalistic designs (Lincoln and Guba 1985), whose aim is to study behaviour in natural settings. That means that phenomena of interest are investigated as they occur naturally, offering little structured context of observations. One fundamental assumption of such designs is that behaviour is best understood as it occurs in its natural contexts, without external constraints or control. The natural context of observation, instead of being regarded as a source of variability to be controlled, is considered essential for a deeper understanding of the phenomena under investigation. Naturalistic designs include, among others (for more details, see Denzin and Lincoln 2005; Silverman 2004): (a) case study designs, which involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination of a single instance or eventcalled case (e.g. an

According to the degree of exerted experimental control, it is possible to distinguish between trueexperiments and quasi-experiments (for a detailed description see Polgar and Thomas 2000). Non-experimental designs include correlational designs, correlationalcomparative designs, correlationalcausalcomparative designs, and ex-post-facto designs.

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organization, an individual, a specific event)in order to gain a sharpened understanding of it4; (b) discourse and conversation analysis designs, which share the focus on language as medium for interaction; (c) focus group designs, which analyze the emergent issues and themes from a group discussion focused on a specific topic5; (d) grounded theory designs, where the field-data is used to generate a grounded theory, that is a set of propositions that pertain to a specific experience, situation, or setting; and (e) ethnographic designs, which enable an in-depth description and interpretation of shared patterns of beliefs, expectations, and behaviours within a cultural or social group. Validity A final important issue of research methodology is that of validity. Validity can be generally referred to as the level of accountability and legitimacy that is strived through data collection, analysis and interpretation (see Research Methods in the next paragraph) (Onwuegbuzie and Teddlie 2003). At a general level it is possible to distinguish between internal validity and generalizability (Maxwell and Loomis 2003). These two distinct aspects of validity have been differently conceptualized within quantitative and qualitative research approaches (see Table 1). With regard to quantitative research, Cook and Campbell (1979) identified statistical conclusion validity (i.e. the validity of inferences from the sample to the population), construct validity (i.e. the validity of the theoretical constructs employed), and causal validity (i.e. the validity of the causeeffect relationship between observed variables) as specific kinds of internal validity. External validity, on the other hand, can be defined as the extent to which the results of a study can be generalized across populations, settings, and times (Johnson and Christensen 2000; p. 200)6. In relation to qualitative approaches, Maxwell (1992) identified four main categories of validity: descriptive validity (i.e. the validity of the descriptions of settings and events), interpretative validity (i.e. the validity of statements about the meanings or perspectives held by participants), explanatory validity (i.e. the validity of claims about causal processes and relationships, including construct validity as well as causal validity), and generalizability (i.e. the extent to which a researcher can generalize the account of a particular situation or population to other individuals, times, setting, or contexts)7. It is important to observe that causality and causal inference are controversial in qualitative research. Some researchers (e.g. Guba and Lincoln 1989) deny that causality is an appropriate concept in qualitative research. Some others (e.g. Sayer 2000) argue that causal explanation is relevant also in qualitative research but that it is based on process rather than variance concept of causality (Maxwell and Loomis 2003; p. 255).

Case study designs may also be appropriate to the quantitative approach. In this case it is usual to talk about single-case research designs (see Hilliard 1993 and Kazdin 1982). The term focus group may also refer to a specific form of data collection (see next paragraph). For a detailed description of different typologies of validity as well as of validity threats and strategies for addressing these threats see Campbell and Stanley 1963 and Cook and Campbell 1979. Generalizability has also been referred to as transferability (Guba and Lincoln 1989).

5 6


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Table 2 Attributes of quantitative and qualitative research methods Quantitative approaches Sampling Probabilistic Simple random sampling Systematic random sampling Stratified random sampling Cluster sampling Purposive Convenience sampling Qualitative approaches Sampling

Purposive Convenience sampling Homogeneous cases sampling Extreme/deviant and Typical case sampling Data collection Primary data Open-ended interviews Focus group Naturalistic observation protocols Secondary data Official documents Personal documents Data analysis Description Identification of categories/themes Looking for interconnectedness between categories/themes Data interpretation Contextualization Interpretation based (data-driven) Personal interpretation

Data collection Primary data Tests or standardized questionnaires Structured interviews Closed-ended observational protocols Secondary data Official documents

Data analysis Descriptive statistics Inferential statistics

Data interpretation Generalization Prediction based (theory-driven) Interpretation of theory

Research Methods Different research designs may be implemented by different research methods. Research methods regard those procedures and techniques involved in data collection, analysis and interpretation. Collecting and analyzing data are the concrete steps, which allow valid answers to the research questions. Quantitative and qualitative approaches differ in the research methods they apply (see Table 2). These will be described with reference to data sampling, collection, analysis, and interpretation (for a detailed account see Creswell 2005). These differences have also contributed to the QQD, although to a lesser extent, compared with the paradigmatic foundations. Sampling In quantitative research, the intent of sampling is to choose individuals that are representative of a population, so that results can be generalized to it (external validity). To accomplish this task, quantitative researchers may resort to both probabilistic (i.e. each member of the population has the same probability to be included in the sample) and purposive (i.e. use of some criterions to replace the principle of cancelled random errors) sampling (for a detailed overview see Kemper, Stringfield, and Teddlie 2003). Some of the most adopted strategies of probabilistic

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sampling are the simple random sampling (i.e. each member of the identified population has an equal chance of being included in the sample), the systematic random sampling (which involves the selection of each nth unit of the target population from a randomly ordered list of the population), the stratified random sampling (which is obtained separating the population into groups so that each element belongs to a single group, from which then a random sample is selected), and the cluster sampling (where a random sample of groupswhich are naturally occurring in the populationis selected). Convenience sampling (whereby elements are drawn from a subpopulation according to its accessibility and research interests) is a form of purposive sampling usually used within quantitative research designs. Qualitative approaches, by contrast, make use of almost exclusively purposive sampling strategies. These allow selecting information-rich cases to be studied in depth (Patton 1990; p. 169). Purposive sampling strategies include, among others: convenience sampling (see above), homogeneous cases sampling (i.e. picking elements from a subgroup to study in-depth), snowball sampling (i.e. using informants to identify cases that would be useful to include in the study), extreme/ deviant and typical case sampling (which involve seeking out respectively the most outstanding casesin order to learn as much as possible about the outliersor the most average cases from a subpopulation) (see Table 2). Data Collection Once the sampling is concluded, data has to be collected (see Table 2) (see also Creswell 2005, for a detailed description). Data may be collected directly from the subjects constituting the sample (primary data) or indirectly, e.g. by making use of personal and official documents as well as research archives (secondary data). In quantitative research, data has to be collected which are relevant to test the formulated hypotheses. Data collection is attained by using tests or standardized questionnaires (which assess performances, attitudes, personality, self-perception, etc.), structured interviews (where the interviewer just reads the pre-defined questions and records the answers related to one or more issues or phenomena relevant to the research questions), and closed-ended observational protocols (which allow classifying the behaviour of interest using pre-defined categories8,9). Secondary data may also be collected as, for example, referring to official documents (e.g. financial records and census data). The resulting data is finally coded by assigning numeric values, and successively introduced into a data matrix, which will be used for the statistical analysis (see next section). It is suggested to develop a codebook that lists variables names, their definition, and coding values. In qualitative research, data has to be collected in order to allow an in-depth understanding of the participants perspective. For that reason, qualitative data collection procedures display a much lower degree of standardization compared to quantitative data collection. Qualitative data collection is usually accomplished by using

Whereby the visual data is usually video-recorded in order to allow the subsequent analysis according to the specific observational protocol used. See e.g. the Analysis and Treatment of Finger Sucking (Ellingson et al. 2000), which allows investigating the reinforcements useful in maintaining finger sucking, or the Strange Situation Protocol (Ainsworth et al. 1978) for the assessment of attachment in infants (1220 months).


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open-ended interviews (which allows investigating the subjects perspective regarding a pre-defined set of topics10), focus groups (i.e. an in-depth group discussion focused on one or more specific issues or topics of interest), and naturalistic observation protocols (which allow the observation of specific events and/or behaviours of one or more subjects in real-world situations11). Interviews are usually audio-recorded; naturalistic observation protocols end up in an accurate description of observed events and processes and in field notes, which are accounts describing experiences and observations the researcher has made during the observation. Videorecordings of the observed behaviours and/or situations may help in this process. Qualitative research also makes often use of secondary data, like personal documents (i.e. anything personal written, photographed or recorded for private purposes), official documents (e.g. speeches and video recordings of television shows and advertisements) and archived research data (which may e.g. contain results of previously conducted qualitative studies). The overall text data obtained in this way must then be transcribed in order to be analyzed (see next section). Data Analysis Data analysis consists of examining the database to address the research questions and hypotheses (see Creswell 2005, for a detailed description). In quantitative research approaches, the researcher analyzes the data in order to test one or more formulated hypotheses; however, explorative data analysis is also possible. The aim is to find out if the relationships between the observed variables (either of a causal or correlational nature) in one or more groups are statistically significant, that is, generalizable to the population the sample is drawn from. The choice of a statistical test is based on the type of questions being asked (e.g. describe trends, compare groups, or relate variables), the types of scales used to measure the variables (nominal, ordinal, interval or ratio), and whether the population is normally or non-normally distributed. Confidence intervals and effect sizes may also be used to provide further evidence. Quantitative analysis proceeds from descriptive to inferential (hypotheses-testing) analysis. Finally, the results of the analysis are presented in the form of statements summarizing the statistical results. Tables or figures may also be used. Qualitative data analysis is carried out on the previously collected text data (i.e. transcriptions, memos and field notes) through content or thematic analysis. Content or thematic analysis is based on the examination of the data for recurrent instances of some kind; these instances are then systematically identified across the data set, and grouped together by means of a coding system (Silverman 2004). Coding is a process of grouping evidence and labelling portions of text so that they reflect increasingly broader perspectives. The researcher first divides the text to be analyzed into units (sentences, phrases or passages) and labels them, using terms that should come from exact words of the participant. According to the observed similarities and differences between the labelled text units, the researcher groups labels together into

10 Some forms of open-ended interview (i.e. the interview guide approach and the standardized openended interview) correspond to some extent to what is generally known as semi-structured interview. 11

The roles of an observer may vary on a continuum: complete participant, to the participant-as-observer, observer-as-participant, and complete observer (Johnson and Turner 2003).

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themes (or content categories). These emergent themes are then re-labelled, using a language closer to the language of the researcher and to the theory of reference. Finally, the themes (or content categories) are interrelated to each other and abstracted into a set of themes, which will receive new labels. This procedure allows reaching gradually higher levels of abstraction in the description of the data, and identifying the constituents of the analyzed texts. The obtained data is then presented. Presenting qualitative results essentially involves a discussion of the evidence for the emerged themes and perspectives. The idea is to build a discussion that persuades the reader that the identified categories and dimensions are effectively grounded in the observed data, and not imposed by the researcher. Figures, maps or tables may also be used to represent these results. Table 2 offers a synthetic description of the main features of data analysis in quantitative and qualitative research. Data Interpretation Data interpretation consists of figuring out what the findings mean, and is part of the overall effort to make sense of the evidence gathered. In quantitative research, data interpretation consists of giving a meaning to the obtained results with reference to the theory the hypotheses have been developed from. This process can also be referred to as deductive inference (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003b). According to whether the design was experimental or nonexperimental, conclusions may be drawn concerning causeeffect relationships or correlations between variables in the population the sample was selected from. These conclusions may then enable to confirm, extend or challenge the theory of reference. In qualitative research, data interpretation is based on a process of inductive inference (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003b), which refers to a process of creating meaningful and consistent explanations, understanding, conceptual frameworks, and/or theories drawing on a systematic observation of phenomena. In these terms, qualitative data interpretation consists of giving a meaning to the obtained results with reference to the specific and particular context of the study (e.g. settings, participants). This process of contextualization is necessary to address the issue of qualitative internal validity (i.e. descriptive, interpretative and explanatory validity). In which way may qualitative results (i.e. statements about the meaning and/or perspectives held by the participants concerning a specific issue) help us in increasing our systematic understanding of the issues under investigation? According to the kind of naturalistic research design used, the interrelated themes and/or categories which result from the analysis may be used to comprise a model (as in grounded theory designs), a chronology (as in narrative research designs), or comparisons between groups (as in ethnographic designs). A process of larger sensemaking should then be employed to broaden the understanding and the theoretical perspectives the results may contribute to develop. In this way, issues of qualitative external validity (transferability) may be addressed. Contrary to quantitative research, where results interpretation is theory-driven and may lead to a confirmation, extension or questioning of an already existing theory, qualitative data interpretation aims at developing data-driven hypothesis and new theoretical perspectives and understanding of the phenomena under investigation.


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Mixed Methods Research We have shown how quantitative and qualitative approaches are profoundly diverse at different levels (i.e. philosophical foundations, methodological assumptions, and research methods). Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and usually the strengths of an approach may be considered as the weaknesses of the other approach, and vice versa. These differences have been perceived by the proponents of each approach in terms of dichotomy, rather than complementarity. This has strongly contributed to sustain a debate between quantitative and qualitative research approaches (QQD) over the years, leading to epistemological fragmentation, theoretical insularity, and empirical arbitrariness. However, in the past decades a new research approach has been developed, known as Mixed Methods Research (MMR). MMR can be defined as a research approach that combines and integrates quantitative and qualitative research approaches. This research approach is, as in the case of quantitative and qualitative research approaches, characterized by specific philosophical foundations, methodological assumptions and research methods. These will be described in the following sections (for a detailed description see Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003a; Creswell and Plano Clark 2007). Worldviews and Philosophical Foundations After a formative period between the 1950s and the 1980s, which saw the initial interest in combining quantitative and qualitative methods in a study (e.g. Sieber 1973), a paradigm debate period occurred between the 1970s and the 1980s. The prevailing issue of this period was the opportunity of integrating the philosophical foundations of quantitative and qualitative research. Some (e.g. Smith and Heshiusius 1986) argued that the underlying paradigms of these two research approaches were incompatible (see Smith 1983). In 1988, Bryman (1988) challenged this argument suggesting how the two research paradigms could be combined. Although the debate is still very lively, nowadays there is a consistent agreement about combining quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Greene and Caracelli (2003) delineate four meaningful instances in mixing paradigms: (1) thinking dialectically about mixing paradigms, (2) using a new paradigm, (3) being pragmatic, and (4) putting substantive understanding first. The first two consider paradigms essential for guiding research inquiry, but propose different solutions (Greene and Caracelli 2003). According to the dialectical stance, all paradigms may be equally valuable to guide scientific research. For this reason, researchers should intentionally engage in a dialectical way with multiple sets of philosophical assumptions toward better understanding (e.g. Greene 2000). The proponents of a new paradigm suggest that paradigms may and should evolve in order to incorporate a broader set of beliefs and assumptions, and therefore welcome more diverse sets of methods. One example is the commonsense realism by Putnam (1990), according to which social reality is both causal and contextual. In this case, the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods is not only welcomed but actually required. The third and the fourth instances, by contrast, consider paradigms not primarily relevant in guiding research inquiry (Greene and Caracelli 2003). According to the pragmatic (or context-driven) instance, what matters most is the responsiveness to

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the demands of the inquiry context. Pragmatists are open by an allegiance to any paradigm that fits best with the research aims (see e.g. Howe 1988). Finally, the proponents of the concept-driven instance claim, on the other hand, that conceptual or theoretical congruence is the most relevant issue in guiding empirical research. Decisions concerning the research process are made not for their congruence with particular sets of philosophical assumptions but rather for their ability to enhance understanding of a particular set of concepts in a particular context (see for example Cooksy et al. 2001). The philosophical foundations of MMR described above show how this research approach allows for multiple worldviews and paradigms. This may enable asking different and more complex questions and, consequently, looking for different and more complex answers. We suggest that this is the first step to overcome the limitations connected to the single application of either quantitative or qualitative approaches. Methodological Assumptions General Issues The methodology of MMR can be described with reference to what Newman and Benz (1998) called qualitativequantitative interactive continuum of research. As the name suggests, this model considers an interactive continuum, and not a dichotomy, between qualitative and quantitative methodologies. This model is based on a unitary vision of science, according to which quantitative and qualitative methodologies must interact in a continuous way in order to allow researchers to answer different and complementary research questions. In extending his model, Newman and colleagues (Newman et al. 2003) focus on the researchers purpose as even more fundamental than the researchers question. They argue that systematically ordering ones research purposes may accomplish the linkages between different research questions and the correspondent methodologies, providing a foundation for MMR methodology. Shedding light on the dynamic of research purposes is necessary to understand MMRs methodology (Newman et al. 2003). In order to do that, Newman and colleagues (Newman et al. 2003) present a typology of research purposes, each of which is generally associated with either a quantitative or a qualitative methodology. These nine general purposes (and the correspondent methodologies) are categorized as follows: (1) predictthrough quantitative methodology, (2) add to the knowledge base through quantitative methodology, (3) have a personal, social, institutional, and/or organizational impactthrough qualitative methodology, (4) measure change through quantitative methodology, (5) understand complex phenomenathrough qualitative research, (6) test new ideasthrough quantitative methodology, (7) generate new ideasthrough qualitative methodology, (8) inform constituencies through qualitative methodology, and (9) examine the pastthrough qualitative methodology. It is interesting to observe how each of these different research purposeswith the respective quantitative or qualitative methodologymay flow into, overlap with, and generate other research purposes. This may be characteristic of a single- or multiple-study research approach. The nine research purposes outline a gestalt showing how quantitative and qualitative methodologies may represent an interactive continuum along which a researcher may plan his study oscillating in a


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dynamic way between generalization and contextualization, explanation and understanding, deduction and induction, and hypotheses-testing and hypotheses-generating. Research Designs Different research designs in MMR have been identified. Tashakkori and Teddlie (2003a) have reported nearly 40 different types of mixed methods designs in the literature. Creswell and colleagues (Creswell et al. 2003) have summarized the range of these classifications. Finally, this summary has been updated, leading to a list of 12 classifications which span the past 15 years of scholarly writings about mixed methods approaches (Creswell and Plano Clark 2007). In order to provide a more synthetic, parsimonious and functional overview of the different research designs actually existing in MMR, Creswell and Plano Clark (2007) propose four major mixed methods designs, each of one with its variants: the triangulation design, the embedded design, the explanatory design, and the exploratory design. They can be allocated either in one-phase or two-phase approaches (see Table 3). In one-phase approaches, qualitative and quantitative methods are applied simultaneously (for this reason they are also called concurrent designs) and to the same sample; this is the case of triangulation designs and one-phase embedded designs. In two-phase approaches, the quantitative and qualitative methods are applied one after the other (for this reason they are also called sequential design) to the same sample or to different samples in the different stages of the study; this is the case of explanatory designs, exploratory designs, and two-phase embedded designs. The four main mixed methods research designs are depicted in Fig. 1. The triangulation design (also called convergence triangulation design) represents the most and well-known approach to mixing methods (Creswell et al. 2003). Its purpose is to obtain different but complementary data on the same topic (Morse 2003; p. 122) (see Fig. 1). The underlying idea is that, to best understand a research problem, it is necessary to bring together the differing strengths and non-overlapping weaknesses of quantitative methods (large sample size, trends, generalization) with those of qualitative methods (small N, details, in-depth) (Creswell and Plano Clark 2007). This is especially the case when a researcher wants to directly compare and contrast quantitative statistical results with qualitative findings, or to validate or expand quantitative results with qualitative data. In the triangulation design, researchers implement quantitative and qualitative methods during the same timeframe (one-phase
Table 3 Mixed methods research designs and their variants in one-phase and two-phase approaches One-phase approach Triangulation Data transformation model Validating quantitative data model Multilevel model Embedded Embedded experimental model Correlational model Two-phase approach Explanatory Follow-up explanation model Participant selection model

Exploratory Instrument development Taxonomy development Embedded Embedded experimental model

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One-phase approach (a) Merge the data: Triangulation design

Interpretation of QUAN + QUAL results


(b) Embed the data: Embedded design

Interpretation of QUAN (qual) results


Interpretation of QUAL (quan) results

Two-phase approach (a) Connect the data: Explanatory design

QUAN qual
Interpretation of QUAN qual results

Exploratory design
QUAL quan
Interpretation of QUAL quan results

(b) Embed the data: Embedded design

Interpretation of QUAN (qual) results


Interpretation of QUAL (quan) results

Fig. 1 Mixed methods research designs

design) and with equal weight. It involves the concurrent, but separate, data collection and analysis (see next paragraph). The two data sets are merged by bringing the results together into one overall or by transforming one data set into the other, and the overall results are then interpreted. Some variants exist (Creswell et al. 2003; Creswell and Plano Clark 2007): the data transformation model, the validating quantitative data model, and the multilevel model (see Table 3). The data transformation model is used when a researcher wants to know to what extent the different types of data confirm each other. After initial data collection, one data type is transformed into the other data type (by either quantifying qualitative findings or qualifying quantitative results (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998; for application see Pagano et al. 2002). Researchers use the validating quantitative data model when they want to validate and expand on the quantitative


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findings from a survey by including a few open-ended qualitative questions (see e.g. example Webb et al. 2002). Finally, in the multilevel model (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998), different methods (quantitative and qualitative) are used to address different levels within a system. The findings from each level are then merged together into one overall interpretation. For example, Elliott and Williams (2002) studied an employee counselling service using qualitative data at the level of clients, counsellors and directors, and quantitative data for the organizational level. The embedded design is a mixed method design where one data set provides a supportive, secondary role in a study primarily based on the other data type (Creswell et al. 2003; see Fig. 1). This design is used when researchers need to include qualitative or quantitative data to answer a research question within a largely quantitative or qualitative study. Qualitative data could be embedded within a primarily quantitative methodology (e.g. an experimental design), or quantitative data could be embedded within a primarily qualitative design (i.e. a grounded theory design). A variant of this research design is the embedded experimental model, where qualitative data is embedded within an experimental design (either a true experiment or a quasi-experiment) (see Table 3). This variant can be used either as a one-phase or a two-phase approach. For example, in a one-phase approach qualitative data can be embedded during the intervention phase, when the researcher wants to conduct in-depth investigation of the participants perspective during the process of intervention. A two-phase approach is instead used when the researcher needs qualitative information before the intervention (e.g. in order to better shape the intervention or to select participants) or after the intervention (e.g. to explore in depth the results of the intervention or to follow up on the experiences of the participants about the intervention). For example, Evans and Hardy (2002a, b) conducted an experimental study of goal-setting intervention for injured athletes, followed up by interviewing participants from each of the treatment group to better interpret the results of the experimental study. Another variant of the embedded design is the correlational model, in which qualitative data is embedded within a quantitative design. Researchers conduct a quantitative correlational study, and at the same time collect qualitative data to help explain the obtained results. The explanatory design is a two-phase mixed methods design. The overall purpose is to obtain quantitative results, and then explain or build on them using additional qualitative data (Creswell et al. 2003; see Fig. 1). In an explanatory research design the researchers start with the collection and analysis of quantitative data; after that, a qualitative phase of the study is designed so that it follows (or connects to) the results of the first quantitative phase. There are two variants of the explanatory design: the follow-up explanation and the participant selection model (see Table 3). In the follow-up explanation model the researcher first identifies specific quantitative findings that need additional explanation (e.g. significantnon significant, outlier, or surprising results), and then collect and analyze data from participants that can best help in explaining the results. In the participant selection model quantitative information is used to identify and purposefully select participants for a follow-up, in-depth qualitative study. In this variant the focus is primarily qualitative. For example, May and Etkina (2002) collected quantitative data to identify students with high and low conceptual learning gains, and then completed an in-depth qualitative comparison between these groups.

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The last mixed method research design is the exploratory design. The aim of this two-phase design is to use the results of the method applied first (qualitative) to further develop or inform the results obtained with the second (quantitative) method (Creswell et al. 2003; see Fig. 1). This design is used when exploration of data is needed (e.g. measures or instruments are not available, little is known about variables that have to be assessed, lack of guiding theory or framework). Researchers start with qualitative data in order to explore in depth a phenomenon, and then step to a second, quantitative phase. This design has two common variants: the instrument development model and the taxonomy development model. The instrument development model allows developing a quantitative instrument based on qualitative findings. Through a qualitative investigation it is possible to explore the research topic with a few participants. These results are then used to develop items and scales, which will constitute the quantitative survey instrument. The taxonomy development model makes use of the initial qualitative phase to identify important variables, develop taxonomy or classification systems, elaborate an emergent theory; thereafter, the quantitative phase is used to test or study these results in a more detailed way (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998). This model allows formulating research questions or hypotheses based on qualitative findings, and testing them within a quantitative framework (see e.g. Goldenberg et al. 2005). Validity Mixed methods researchers, as quantitative and qualitative ones, strive for the accountability and legitimacy of their research results, which is necessary for drawing valid inferences (see data interpretation in the next paragraph). The issue of validity in MMR is one of the most addressed issues in the literature (e.g. Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003b). It is possible to distinguish between inference quality and inference transferability. Inference quality incorporates the quantitative internal validity and the qualitative trustworthiness and credibility of interpretation. It can be defined as the degree to which the interpretations and conclusions made on the basis of the results meet the professional standards of rigor, trustworthiness and acceptability as well as the degree to which alternative plausible explanations for the obtained results can be ruled out (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998; p. 709). By contrast, inference transferability subsumes the quantitative external validity (generalizability) as well as the qualitative transferability. It can be defined as the generalizability or applicability of inferences obtained in a study to other individuals or entities, other settings or situations, other time periods, or other methods/instruments of observation (Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998; p. 710). Specific MMR designs may contribute to enhance inference quality and inference transferability in different ways. Triangulation design, for example, may allow a broader range of inferences based on the merging of quantitative and qualitative datasets. In an embedded experimental design, the overall validity of the study is increased by qualitatively addressing the process beside the quantitative investigation of the product. In a follow-up explanatory design, the subsequent qualitative analysis may provide additional meaningful information to explain the previously obtained quantitative results. Finally, in an exploratory design, a previously conducted qualitative investigation of a topic in order to develop a questionnaire may lead to more precise and accurate results.


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The specific methodological assumptions of MMR allow to address different and articulated research questions through a dialectic combination between quantitative and qualitative approaches. According to us, this represents a second essential step to get over the limitations of purely quantitative or qualitative approaches. Research Methods Different mixed methods research designs are characterized by specific procedures used for data collection (which includes sampling strategies), analysis, and interpretation. These may present distinct issues according to whether concurrent (one-phase) or sequential (two-phase) research designs are implemented. Sampling The specific sampling strategies for quantitative and qualitative research (see Table 2) should be applied also when these two research approaches are used in combination. One supplementary issue concerns participant selection: should the same or different individuals be selected for the quantitative and qualitative sample? In the case of triangulation, embedded and explanatory designs, researchers should select the same individuals for both quantitative and qualitative data collection. If an exploratory design has to be implemented, the individuals selected for the first qualitative data collection are typically not the same as those selected for the following quantitative phase. This is because the aim of such a design is to generalize the results to population. Another relevant issue is that of sample size: should the same number of individuals be sampled respectively for the quantitative and qualitative data collection? Generally, the quantitative sample will be bigger than the qualitative one. An exception may be observed in the case of triangulation design. In this case, the size of both quantitative and qualitative samples should be as similar as possible, to avoid that differences in sample size are reflected in differences in the two datasets. Data Collection Data collection in MMR can be concurrent (as in triangulation and one-phase embedded designs) or sequential (as in explanatory, exploratory, and twophase embedded designs) (for a detailed account see Creswell and Plano Clark 2007). In the case of concurrent data collection, data is collected during the same timeframe, even though independently from each other (see Fig. 1). The collected data may have equal or unequal weight (as in triangulation design vs. one-phase embedded designs). By contrast, sequential data collection involves different stages (see Fig. 1). The data is first collected (and then analyzed, see next section) either in a quantitative form (as in explanatory or two-phase embedded designs) or in a qualitative form (as in exploratory and two-phase embedded designs). Decisions are then made about how the results (either quantitative or qualitative) will be used to influence the following data collection (either qualitative or quantitative). Finally, a second and complementary phase of data collection (and analysis, see next section) builds on the first one. Either quantitative or qualitative data collection may be weighted more heavily. Quantitative data collection is more weighted in the first phase of follow-up explanatory designs, and in the second phase of instrument development exploratory designs; qualitative data collection is more weighted in the second phase of participant selection explanatory designs, and in the first phase of taxonomy development exploratory designs. In two-phase embedded designs, quantitative data collection is always more weighted than qualitative one.

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Data Analysis As in the case of data collection, also data analysis in MMR may be either concurrent or sequential (for a detailed account see Creswell and Plano Clark 2007). The aim of concurrent mixed methods data analysis is to look for convergences resulting from merging, or embedding the results from different datasets. Concurrent data analysis involves conducting a separate initial analysis for each of the quantitative and qualitative datasets. After that, the researcher merges or embeds the two datasets, so that a complete picture is developed from both of them (triangulation design), or so that the supportive data set can reinforce or refute the results of the first dataset (one-phase embedded design). Two techniques are available for merging quantitative and qualitative datasets in MMR: data transformation and comparison. Data transformation (see Onwuegbuzie and Teddlie 2003) may allow transformation of one form of data into the other. Transforming qualitative data into quantitative ones is usually done in studies involving content analysis (see Sandelowsky 2003). This procedure consists essentially in reducing qualitative codes, themes and/or content categories to numeric information, counting the occurrence of each previously identified category. Thereafter, a matrix can be developed, which combines the different qualitative categories with their occurrences. Transforming quantitative data into qualitative ones has received much less attention in the literature. An example is, however, provided by Punch (1998), where quantitative data were loaded into factors in a factor analysis, and the factors were then viewed as aggregated units similar to themes. Data can be merged also by comparing the results of quantitative and qualitative data through a matrix or a discussion. In the first case, for example, it is possible to identify within the text data quotes, which synthetically represent the previously identified qualitative themes. This information can then be introduced into a matrix together with the results of quantitative analysis, allowing a comparison between the results from the two datasets. A discussion may also be used to compare the data. In this case, the quantitative results may be displayed and then discussed with reference to the obtained qualitative results. The purpose of sequential mixed methods data analysis is to use the results from the first data set to inform the results which will be obtained with the second data set. Sequential data analysis therefore involves an initial stage where the first data set is analyzed following the traditional quantitative (as in explanatory or two-phase embedded designs) or qualitative (as in exploratory or two-phase embedded designs) procedures of analysis (see Table 2). The resulting information is then used to take decisions concerning the analysis of the second data set. Data Interpretation Data interpretation in MMR takes place after the data has been collected and analyzed either in a concurrent or sequential way12. In MMR, the process of making sense of the evidence gathered involves a cyclical combination

12 This is the case of mixed methods designs, which are described in the present paper. In mixed model designs (for on overview see Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003a), by contrast, interpretation takes place after the application of each quantitative and qualitative strand of the design. The researcher has then to go through a process of meta-interpretation. The inferences developed for each strand of the design are then integrated. This process is called meta-inference (Tashakkori and Teddlie 2003a).


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between the processes of quantitative deductive inference (theory-driven hypothesis testing, verification oriented) and qualitative inductive inference (data-driven hypothesis and theory development, exploration oriented). According to whether a concurrent or a sequential design has been used, there may be a different emphasis on either the deductive inference, the inductive inference, or both. A major emphasis on quantitative deductive inference processes is characteristic of (a) triangulation data validating design (in order to find out to what extent the qualitative results support the quantitative ones), (b) embedded experimental and correlational design (to find out how the qualitative results inform and help to explain the experimental or correlational results), (c) explanatory follow-up design (to find out how the qualitative results help explain the quantitative ones), and of (d) explanatory instrument development design (to find out what items and scales represent at best the qualitative results). Some other designs are characterized by an emphasis on qualitative inductive inference processes. These are the (a) classical embedded design (to find out how the qualitative results support or disconfirm the quantitative ones), and the (b) explanatory taxonomy development design (to find out in what ways the quantitative results generalize the qualitative ones). Finally, emphasis on both quantitative deductive and qualitative inductive inference processes is placed in the (a) triangulation convergence design (to find out to what extent, how, and why the quantitative and qualitative data converge), (b) triangulation data transformation design (to find out to what extent quantitative and qualitative results confirm each other), and (c) triangulation multilevel design (to find out how quantitative and qualitative results confirm each other at different levels of observation). These different combinations of quantitative deductive and qualitative inductive inference processes allow addressing in different ways the issues of internal (inference quality) and external (inference transferability) validity in MMR. The research methods described above provide the possibility of a more reliable and valid data collection, analysis and interpretation. Convergences at the level of data collection and analysis (e.g., quantitative and qualitative data are coherent with each other, the results of quantitative and qualitative analysis support each other) may allow more consistent and meaningful interpretations of the results. Incongruities, by contrast, may suggest to refine procedures of data collection and/or analysis, as well as to develop new research questions.

MMR: Toward a More Comprehensive Psychological Research? Psychological research, developing out of a positivist perspective, has been a remarkably quantitative field. However, since the first half of the century, qualitative research approaches have been developed within social and psychological research. This has led to the development of an enduring debate between these two opposed research approaches. The QuantitativeQualitative Debate (QQD) has been sustained at the level of philosophical foundations (e.g. objectivism vs. subjectivism and constructivism), research methodologies (e.g. explanation vs. understanding, prediction vs. interpretation, deduction vs. induction), and research methods (big

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vs. small samples, numbers vs. narratives, statistical analysis vs. content analysis, hypothesis testing vs. theory generation). In order to overcome this debate, Mixed Method Research (MMR) has been formally developed since the 1980s. Aim of the MMR approach is to combine or integrate the traditional quantitative and qualitative research approaches in order to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages connected to the single application of one of the two approaches. Despite the attempt of integrating quantitative and qualitative research approaches, the QQD is still very lively. This is testified, for example, by the recent article of Toomela (2008), which shows the limitations of variable psychology for the development of a theory of mind due to (a) the inadequacy of quantitative variables to encode in a reliable and externally valid way information about mental phenomena, and (b) the related misleading conclusions statistical analysis may lead to. The scientific investigation of mind is a very complex issue. It requires the development of theories, which establish general laws of functioning and, at the same time, account for the idiosyncratic differences that different individuals may present. It also requires the reference to multiple level of analysis, both at an intraindividual level (e.g. the interconnections between biological and psychological structures and functions, the relationships between motivational, emotional, cognitive and behavioural schemes, the different ways of attributing meanings to situations and events) and at an inter-individual level (e.g. the bio-psychosocial adaptation to the environment, the quality of interpersonal relationships within familiar, social and cultural contexts). For these reasons, we believe that the development of an adequate theory of mind requires the cycling between approaches which, striving for integration, avoid dichotomous (either reductionistic or relativistic) and therefore partial accounts of phenomena. We have tried to show how MMR may provide a useful context for a more comprehensive psychological research, of the extent to which it promotes a dialectic interaction of different perspectives at different levels. At a philosophical level, MMR acknowledges the necessity of eventually referring to multiple worldviews and paradigms. This may help in asking more complex questions from different perspectives, which may in turn allow seeking different and more complex answers. At the level of methodology, MMR overcomes the dichotomy between nomothetic and idiographic methodologies which, on the contrary, should be located on an interactive continuum. In this way, a cyclical dynamic can be established between generalization and contextualization, explanation and understanding, deduction and induction, and hypothesis testing and hypothesis generation. Finally, at the level of research methods, MMR enables the integration of data collection and analysis (either concurrent or sequential) which, in turn, may allow (a) overcoming the traditional limitations concerning both the information encoded in quantitative variables (see Toomela 2008), and the meaning contained in qualitative accounts, and (b) transcending the rigid dichotomy existing between deductive and inductive inferences, thus leading to an increased accuracy and meaningfulness of data interpretation. We believe that in this way it will be possible to overcome the limitations of purely quantitative or qualitative approaches, providing a fruitful context for a more comprehensive psychological research.


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Dr. Omar Gelo is Assistant Professor in the department of Psychotherapeutic Sciences and Cocoordinator of the Doctoral Program in Psychotherapeutic Sciences for foreign students at Sigmund Freud University, Vienna. His research interests in the field of psychotherapy research concern the therapeutic process, with particular relevance of metaphorical language, emotional-cognitive regulation, and the application of dynamic systems theory to the study of psychotherapy. He is moreover interested in linking process and outcome in different psychotherapeutic orientations.

Dr. Diana Braakmann is Assistant Professor in the department of Psychotherapeutic Sciences at Sigmund Freud University, Vienna. She is psychologist and behaviour therapist with a specific training in dialectic behaviour therapy. Her psychotherapeutic work during the last years was concentrated on treating Borderline Personality Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disease. Her research interests focus on the phenomenon of dissociation as well as the connection between process and outcome variables in psychotherapy.

Prof. Gerhard Benetka studied psychology, history, sociology, and philosophy at the University of Vienna, obtaining his Master degree in Psychology in 1989, PhD in Psychology in 1994, and habilitation of Psychology in 1998 at the University of Vienna. He is now Prof. of Psychology and Head of Institute of Psychology at the Sigmund Freud University, Vienna. His research interests focus on history of psychology and psychoanalysis.