NVivo and Mixed Methods Research

Mixed methods research has many definitions,* but let’s keep it simple. Here we’ll define mixed methods as the use of quantitative research and qualitative research to combine the strengths of each in answering your research question.

You might be intrigued to learn NVivo can help you in mixed methods projects. For instance, you can import multiple data formats into NVivo.

Let’s say you want to conduct interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders representing organizations (like healthcare clinics, not-for-profit groups or schools) in a certain geographic area. To increase the diversity of the people represented in your data, you also send out a survey to all the organizations in the same area.

It’s likely not surprising that you can use NVivo to analyze the interview or focus group transcripts. Analysis of document data is NVivo’s hallmark. But did you know that you can also import and code survey results in NVivo? If the survey has open-ended questions, or questions that include free text fields as a response option (such as “Other. Please describe.”), you can bring this data into NVivo and swiftly gather these responses for analysis.

You can even import key demographic characteristics captured in the survey and use them to analyze the themes. Is it only certain groups of people who comment on this theme? How do they differ? Are they older or younger than those who don’t comment? Perhaps one open question has two very different types of responses that we have coded as negative or positive. How do the characteristics of the people who made the negative comments compare to those who made the positive comments?

If you’re conducting a survey prior to doing interviews or focus groups, you can use the themed survey results to inform the development of your question guides. Combining the survey data and interview or focus group data in one NVivo project will allow you to readily contrast and compare across the datasets. For instance, in the survey you might learn a little about the characteristics of people who responded negatively to a question, and the words they used in their response. If you interview the same respondents, you can explore deeper to understand their experience and opinions. What was driving their response?

Using NVivo for survey and transcript data is just one example of a mixed methods approach. Considering the multiple data formats you can use in NVivo, like images (such as maps or drawings or photos) or social media data (like online news articles or blog posts or websites), there are many opportunities to use NVivo in a wide variety of mixed methods approaches.

    *See Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences.

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