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Mixed methods research refers to those studies or lines of inquiry that integrate one or more qualitative and quantitative techniques for data collection and or analysis. Qualitative data collection methods, such as interviews, focus groups, or participant observation, are now almost routinely used as exploratory hypothesis formation phases of subsequent, more quantitative surveys in health care.  They have great potential for exploring new topics or familiarizing research teams with a new area. They may also assist in theory building, especially when methods aggregating qualitative studies are utilized.   Qualitative data collection techniques are also used broadly when patients’ or providers’ narratives or their lived experience are sought. Whereas quantitative methods may work best in isolating and identifying the correlates associated with variation at specific moments in time, qualitative techniques are particularly good at gaining insight into the processes and events that lead up to the observed variation  and have the key advantage of providing unexpected insights. This last point should be emphasized, because the nature of quantitative research and its data collection tools allow the researcher to infer only about that which he or she is examining you “see” only what you are “looking at”, whereas qualitative methods can expand the gaze to key elements that were never elucidated or even previously considered.There are many benefits to using mixed methods. Quantitative data can support qualitative research components by identifying representative patients or outlying cases, while qualitative data can shed light on quantitative components by helping with development of the conceptual model or instrument. During data collection, quantitative data can provide baseline information to help researchers select patients to interview, while qualitative data can help researchers understand the barriers and facilitators to patient recruitment and retention. During data analysis, qualitative data can assist with interpreting, clarifying, describing, and validating quantitative results.

Mixed methods methodology by using examples of research into the chronic pain management experience among American Indians.A mixed methods research approach is needed to understand the complex experience, epidemiology, and management of chronic pain among American Indians and to address the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative methodologies large sample size, trends, generalizable with those of qualitative methodologies small sample size, details, in-depth.This first example is from an ongoing study that uses triangulation design to provide a better understanding of the phenomenon of chronic pain management among American Indians. The study uses a multilevel model in which quantitative data collected at the national and state levels will be analyzed in parallel with the collection and analysis of the qualitative data at the patient level . This allows the weakness of one approach to be offset by the strengths of the other.The multilevel model was useful in designing this study as different methods were needed at different levels to fully understand the complex health care system. In this example, quantitative data is being collected and analyzed at the national and state levels, and qualitative data is being collected at the patient level. Both qualitative and quantitative data are being collected simultaneously. The findings from each level will then be blended into one overall interpretation.

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