The integration of quantitative and qualitative data is an important step in a mixed methods research study. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods have their strengths and weaknesses, so by combining both forms of data, researchers can gain a richer and more comprehensive understanding of the topic being studied compared to using either method alone.
For this study, the integration process will involve several steps. First, after the quantitative and qualitative components of the study have been completed independently, the researchers will review and summarize the key findings from each. For the quantitative part, this will involve analyzing the results of the surveys or other instruments to determine any statistically significant relationships or differences that emerged from the data. For the qualitative part, the findings will be synthesized from the analysis of interviews, observations, or other qualitative data sources to identify prominent themes, patterns, and categories.
Having summarized the individual results, the next step will be to look for points of convergence or agreement between the two datasets where similar findings emerged from both the quantitative and qualitative strands. For example, if the quantitative data showed a relationship between two variables and the qualitative data contained participant quotes supporting this relationship, this would represent a point of convergence. Looking for these points helps validate and corroborate the significance of the findings.
The researchers will also look for any divergent or inconsistent findings where the quantitative and qualitative results do not agree. When inconsistencies are found, the researchers will carefully examine potential reasons for the divergence such as limitations within one of the datasets, questions of validity, or possibilities that each method is simply capturing a different facet of the phenomenon. Understanding why discrepancies exist can shed further light on the nuances of the topic.
In addition to convergence and divergence, the integration will involve comparing and contrasting the quantitative and qualitative findings to uncover any complementarity between them. Here the researchers are interested in how the findings from one method elaboration, enhance, illustrate, or clarify the results from the other method. For example, qualitative themes may help explain statistically significant relationships from the quantitative results by providing context, description, and examples.
Bringing together the areas of convergence, divergence, and complementarity allows for a line of evidence to develop where different pieces of the overall picture provided by each method type are woven together into an integrated whole. This integrated whole represents more than just the sum of the individual quantitative and qualitative parts due to the new insights made possible through their comparison and contrast.
The researchers will also use the interplay between the different findings to re-examine their theoretical frameworks and research questions in an iterative process. Discrepant or unexpected findings may signal the need to refine existing theories or generate new hypotheses and questions for further exploration. This dialogue between data and theory is part of the unique strength of mixed methods approaches.
All integrated findings will be presented together thematically in a coherent narrative discussion rather than keeping the qualitative and quantitative results entirely separate. Direct quotes and descriptions from qualitative data sources may be used to exemplify quantitative results while statistics can help contextualize qualitative patterns. Combined visual models, joint displays, and figures will also be utilized to clearly demonstrate how the complementary insights from both strands work together.
A rigorous approach to integration is essential for mixed methods studies to produce innovative perspectives beyond those achievable through mono-method designs. This study will follow best practices for thoroughly combining and synthesizing quantitative and qualitative findings at multiple levels to develop a richly integrated understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. The end goal is to gain comprehensive knowledge through the synergy created when two distinct worldviews combine to provide more than the sum of the individual parts.