An Interview with Dr. Michael Fetters

Categories: Focus Series, Mixed, Other, Research

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Mixed and multimethods research are our focus for May. This tag will take you to the series as it unfolds.

Dr. Michael Fetters is our Mentor-in-Residence and webinar panelist. He is the editor of the SAGE Journal of Mixed Methods Research, an interdisciplinary, international publication, and author of the practical new Mixed Methods Workbook. He is a panelist for the upcoming webinar, with Dr. Haynes-Brown, the President of the Mixed Methods International Research Association-Caribbean Chapter (MMIRA-CC).  Register to receive a link to the recording.

Joint Display Analysis for Mixed Methods Research
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I asked him some questions, hoping he could introduce mixed methods to those who are considering this approach, particularly in this extraordinary era of a pandemic.

JS. You are passionate about mixed methods. Why do you think mixed methods social research is important in our current pandemic? How can mixed methods study help us understand problems we are experiencing?

MF. The current COVID-19 pandemic influences virtually every aspect of human existence in the current world. Researchers investigating how humans respond and adapt to this social change of unprecedented scope face highly complex problems that call for a mixed methods research approach. At the Journal of Mixed Methods Research, we have issued a call for papers for a Special Issue that will be devoted to methodological advances in the COVID-19 era. The full editorial provides further details.

JS. What is a good starting point for researchers who are thinking about a mixed methods design?

MF. I would advise reading a succinct introductory paper about mixed methods research such as the Achieving Integration in Mixed Methods Design, or reading an introductory book such as A Concise Introduction to Mixed Methods Research. The Chapter in the Mixed Methods Research Workbook provides step-by-step instructions for creating a mixed methods design figure.What are the most important design considerations for qualitative researchers who want to add a quantitative component?

JS. What are the most important design considerations for quantitative researchers who want to add a qualitative component?

MF. Rather than a mentality of “adding a component”, I believe mixed methods researchers increasingly strive for an integrated approach with equal valuing of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Mixed methods projects can be qualitatively driven or quantitively driven, but the researchers are still truly valuing both approaches. I urge researchers to work with development of their mixed methods research questions as these ultimately link to mixed methods designs. Chapter 2 in the Mixed Methods Research Workbook help readers start the transition from a research topic to a mixed methods research question. Chapter 3 provides support through a review of the literature.

As the mixed methods research question becomes clearer, the mixed methods design will become clearer as well. I often encourage researchers new to mixed methods research to “try on” each of the core designs. That is, consider what the project look like if you used each of the three core designs. Detailed thinking about what you would do, the results you would get, and the limitations often help clarify what is the best mixed methods design.

JS. Researchers who are trained and experienced with either qualitative or quantitative methods resonate with the world views and mindsets associated with their selected approach. They are sometimes prejudiced against the other. How can they get over their reluctance or biases and embrace mixed methods?

MF. Researchers are strongly influenced by their own world views and Chapter 4 in the Workbook provides guidance to readers for discovering how their own personal backgrounds link to various world views . In my experience, individuals most willing to recognize limitations in particular applications of the research tradition they typically use, are the most open to a mixed methods approach.

For example, a researcher strongly influenced by a quantitative mindset (often called post-positivistic) who can recognize the limitations of a quantitative approach for understanding how or why a research phenomenon occurs, or for understanding the actual lived experiences of humans relative to a phenomenon of interest, can appreciate the integration of qualitative procedures into their work using a mixed methods approach.

Similarly, a researcher strongly influences by a qualitative mindset (a view often called constructivist) who can recognize difficulty making conclusions about a larger population, or difficulty assessing causality, can approach the integration of quantitative procedures into their work using a mixed methods approach.

JS. Your new SAGE publication is a workbook. While some might use it in a methods class, can you suggest ways researchers might use it on their own?

MF. I designed the Mixed Methods Research Workbook to be flexible. I wrote the workbook with the explicit intent of helping the reader with their mixed methods research based on their own particular needs. While each chapter builds on the previous, I also wrote the chapters to be independent as a reference for when a need arises. There are essentially three target user groups.  

First, the workbook was designed for someone who is taking a research methods course and needs to develop a mixed methods project.

Second, the workbook was designed to provide activities that can be used during mixed methods research workshops.

Third, it was designed for researchers facing a particular methodological challenge. They can turn to specific chapters when faced with a specific challenge. For example, a seasoned researcher might face the challenge of how to sample in a mixed methods study. Chapter 9 provides an overview about sampling, and activities to develop and refine the sampling strategy. A research group who has been working on a mixed methods paper may be ready to start publishing their findings, but may be inexperienced writing integrated mixed methods papers. Chapter 18 provides guidance on writing up mixed methods findings.

Submit an article: Call for Mixed Methods Methodological Papers on COVID-19 and Novel Mixed Methods Methodological Approaches During Catastrophic Social Changes

Creswell, J.W. (2014) Concise Introduction to Mixed Methods Research, Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage, Inc.

Fetters, M.D., Curry, L.A. and Creswell, J.W. (2013), Achieving Integration in Mixed Methods Designs—Principles and Practices. Health Serv Res, 48: 2134-2156. doi:10.1111/1475-6773.12117

Fetters, M. D., & Molina-Azorin, J. F. (2020). Call for Papers for a Special Issue on COVID-19 and Novel Mixed Methods Methodological Approaches During Catastrophic Social Changes. Journal of Mixed Methods Research.

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