Quality and Quantity

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 43–53 | Cite as

Revisiting the Quantitative-Qualitative Debate: Implications for Mixed-Methods Research

  • Joanna E. M. SaleEmail author
  • Lynne H. Lohfeld
  • Kevin Brazil


Health care research includes many studies that combine quantitative and qualitative methods. In this paper, we revisit the quantitative-qualitative debate and review the arguments for and against using mixed-methods. In addition, we discuss the implications stemming from our view, that the paradigms upon which the methods are based have a different view of reality and therefore a different view of the phenomenon under study. Because the two paradigms do not study the same phenomena, quantitative and qualitative methods cannot be combined for cross-validation or triangulation purposes. However, they can be combined for complementary purposes. Future standards for mixed-methods research should clearly reflect this recommendation.

mixed-methodology quantitative-qualitative debate qualitative methods quantitative methods scientific paradigms 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Altheide, D. L. & Johnson, J. M. (1994). Criteria for assessing interpretive validity in qualitative research. In: Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 485-499.Google Scholar
  2. Baum, F. (1995). Researching public health: Behind the qualitative-quantitative methodological debate. Social Science and Medicine 40: 459-468.Google Scholar
  3. Berger, P. L. & Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  4. Caracelli, V. J. & Greene, J. C. (1993). Data analysis strategies for mixed-method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 15: 195-207.Google Scholar
  5. Caracelli, V. J. & Riggin, L. J. C. (1994). Mixed-method evaluation: Developing quality criteria through concept mapping. Evaluation Practice 15: 139-152.Google Scholar
  6. Carey, J. W. (1993). Linking qualitative and quantitative methods: Integrating cultural factors into public health. Qualitative Health Research 3: 298-318.Google Scholar
  7. Casebeer, A. L. & Verhoef, M. J. (1997). Combining qualitative and quantitative research methods: Considering the possibilities for enhancing the study of chronic diseases. Chronic Diseases in Canada 18: 130-135.Google Scholar
  8. Clarke, P. N. & Yaros, P. S. (1988). Research blenders: Commentary and response. Nursing Science Quarterly 1: 147-149.Google Scholar
  9. Creswell, J.W. (1998). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Datta, L. (1997). Multimethod evaluations: Using case studies together with other methods. In: E. Chelimsky & W. R. Shadish (eds.), Evaluation for the 21st Century: A Handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 344-359.Google Scholar
  11. Denzin, N. K. (1970). The Research Act in Sociology. London: Butterworth.Google Scholar
  12. Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Introduction: Entering the field of qualitative research. In: N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 1-17.Google Scholar
  13. Droitcour, J. A. (1997). Cross design synthesis: Concept and application. In: E. Chelimsky, & Shadish, W. R. (eds), Evaluation for the 21st Century: A Handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 360-372.Google Scholar
  14. Greene, J. C. & Caracelli, V. J. (eds) (1997). Advances in Mixed-Method Evaluation: The Challenges and Benefits of Integrating Diverse Paradigms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  15. Greene, J. C., Caracelli, V. J. & Graham, W. F. (1989). Toward a conceptual framework for mixedmethod evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 11: 255-274.Google Scholar
  16. Guba, E. (1987). What have we learned about naturalistic evaluation? Evaluation Practice 8: 23-43.Google Scholar
  17. Guba, E. G. (1990). The alternative paradigm dialog. In: E. G. Guba (ed.), The Paradigm Dialog. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 17-30.Google Scholar
  18. Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth Generation Evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In: N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 105-117.Google Scholar
  20. Haase, J. E. & Myers, S. T. (1988). Reconciling paradigm assumptions of qualitative and quantitative research. Western Journal of Nursing Research 10: 128-137.Google Scholar
  21. House, E. R. (1994). Integrating the quantitative and qualitative. In: C. S. Reichardt & S. F. Rallis (eds), The Qualitative-Quantitative Debate: New Perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 13-22.Google Scholar
  22. Howe, K. R. (1988). Against the quantitative-qualitative incompatibility thesis or dogmas die hard. Educational Researcher 17: 10-16.Google Scholar
  23. Howe, K. R. (1992). Getting over the quantitative-qualitative debate. American Journal of Education 100: 236-257.Google Scholar
  24. King, G., Keohane, R. O. & Verba, S. (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kuzel, A. J. & Like, R. C. (1991). Standards of trustworthiness for qualitative studies in primary care. In: P. G. Norton, M. Steward, F. Tudiver, M. J. Bass & E. V. Dunn (eds.), Primary Care Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 138-158.Google Scholar
  26. Miles, M. & Huberman, A. (1984). Drawing valid meaning from qualitative data: Toward a shared craft. Educational Researcher 13: 20-30.Google Scholar
  27. Morgan, D. L. (1998). Practical strategies for combining qualitative and quantitative methods: Applications to health research. Qualitative Health Research 8: 362-376.Google Scholar
  28. Morse, J. M. (1991). Approaches to qualitative-quantitative methodological triangulation. Nursing Research 40: 120-123.Google Scholar
  29. Needleman, C. & Needleman, M. L. (1996). Qualitative methods for intervention research. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 29: 329-337.Google Scholar
  30. Phillips, J. R. (1988a). Diggers of deeper holes. Nursing Science Quarterly 1: 149-151.Google Scholar
  31. Phillips, J. R. (1988b). Research blenders. Nursing Science Quarterly 1: 4-5.Google Scholar
  32. Pope, C. & Mays, N. (1993). Opening the black box: An encounter in the corridors of health sciences research. British Medical Journal 306: 315-318.Google Scholar
  33. Reichardt, C. S. & Rallis, S. F. (1994). Qualitative and quantitative inquiries are not incompatible: A call for a new partnership. New Directions for Program Evaluation 61: 85-91.Google Scholar
  34. Reid, A. J. (1996). What we want: Qualitative research. Canadian Family Physician 42: 387-389.Google Scholar
  35. Sandelowski, M. (1986). The problem of rigour in qualitative research. Advances in Nursing Science 8: 27-37.Google Scholar
  36. Secker, J., Wimbush, E., Watson, J. & Milburn, K. (1995). Qualitative methods in health promotion research: Some criteria for quality. Health Education Journal 54: 74-87.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, J. K. (1983). Quantitative versus qualitative research: An attempt to clarify the issue. Educational Researcher 12: 6-13.Google Scholar
  38. Smith, J. K. & Heshusius, L. (1986). Closing down the conversation: The end of the quantitativequalitative debate among educational inquiries. Educational Researcher 15: 4-12.Google Scholar
  39. Steckler, A., McLeroy, K. R., Goodman, R. M., Bird, S. T. & McCormick, L. (1992). Toward integrating qualitative and quantitative methods: An introduction. Health Education Quarterly 19: 1-8.Google Scholar
  40. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Chapter 1: Introduction. Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 23-32.Google Scholar
  41. Tashakkori, A. & Teddlie, C. (1998). Mixed Methodology: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna E. M. Sale
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lynne H. Lohfeld
    • 2
  • Kevin Brazil
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Work & Health; Health Research Methodology Program, Department of Clinical Epidemiology & BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityCanada
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Epidemiology & BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityCanada
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Epidemiology & BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityCanada

Personalised recommendations