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Computer assisted multiple and blended research

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Product Description

Editors:

Eugenio De Gregorio
Department of Developmental and Social Psychology
University of Rome 'La Sapienza', Italy

Francesco Arcidiacono
Institute of Psychology and Education
University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland with

Epilogue by Pat Bazeley (Research Support P/L and ACU)

International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): April 2008

Mixed methods as a third methodological movement might have come of age, but it certainly hasn't yet reached maturity. While the focus of the literature to date has been on foundations and designs, several more 'growth spurts' from breakthroughs in conceptualisation and tools for implementation are needed. If analytic strategies will play a large part in these breakthroughs, developments in computing are likely to be major contributors to the process.

Pat Bazeley - Epilogue

Overview

The use of computer science in social research, and in particular psychology, has grown enormously in the last 20 years. Analysis techniques and very complex software, which make it possible to put into practice different approaches based on both experimental quantitative research and as a support for quality research, have been available for quite some time.

However, different authoritative researchers have recently advocated the need to think about (and consequently put into practice current operational research methods) integrating the different approaches.

According to (Bazeley 2008), the integration of multiple research approaches in analysis typically involves one or more of the following processes:

  • Comparison or integration of results from separate analyses
  • Employment of the results from analysis of one form of data in developing the design and/or analysis of another form of data
  • Synthesis of data from a variety of sources for further interpretation
  • A combination of coded information from component data sources, to facilitate comparisons, and/or interpretation of one in the light of the other
  • Conversion of information from one form to another (usually qualitative to quantitative coding)Creation of blended variables to facilitate further analysis.

Papers in this issue provide examples of the ways in which computers can contribute to several multiple research approaches in analysis. In a field where analyses are limited, computer software's contribution to achieving integration in analysis is rarely reported. The examples and lessons learned by researchers reporting in Computer Assisted Multiple and Blended Research are of great value to mixed methodologists, CAQDAS researchers, practitioners, novice researchers and their supervisors alike.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Computer-assisted analysis in social sciences: A unique strategy to carry on mixed and blended research?
Eugenio De Gregorio, Francesco Arcidiacono

Integrating mixed methods data analysis using NVivo: an example examining attrition and persistence of nursing students
Sharon Andrew, Yenna Salamonson, Elizabeth J Halcomb

Co-interpretation of usage data: a mixed-methods approach to the evaluation of online environments
Richard Procter, Patrick Carmichael, Vito Laterza

Comparative application of two methodological approaches to the analysis of discourses
Francesco Paolo Colucci, Lorenzo Montali

Assessment of academic motivation: a computer assisted mixed methods study
Fabio Alivernini, Fabio Lucidi, Sara Manganelli

New technologies for youth communication: a blended research design to study help relationships on the Internet
Fabiana Gatti, Davide Galesi

Teaching different research methods through the use of video analysis software for media students: a case study
Paolo Parmeggiani PhD

Rigor and flexibility in computer-based qualitative research: introducing the Coding Analysis Toolkit
Chi-Jung Lu, Stuart W Shulman Director

Methodological thinking in psychology: starting from mixed methods
Francesco Arcidiacono, Eugenio De Gregorio

Epilogue: Software tools and the development of multiple and mixed methods research
Patricia Bazeley

Marketing Page

Review

'This compilation would be a particularly valuable teaching resource for demonstrating the variety of reporting devices and as a focus for critical comparative discussion of different approaches.'

Mixed or multiple methods research that combines qualitative and quantitative data and analysis in a single study has become increasingly popular (Hurmerinta-Peltomäki & Nummela 2006; Sale & Brazil 2004) and is now being adopted in disciplines as varied as engineering (Atman, Kilgore & McKenna 2008), social work (Waldrop 2007), medicine (Strasser, Binswanger, Cerny & Kesselring 2007), and education (Onwuegbuzie, Witcher, Collins, Filler, Wiedmaier & Moore 2007). A solid understanding of mixed methods approaches and how they are used is critical to ensuring researchers conduct high quality studies (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004).

This necessitates an appreciation of how and when to mix methods (Rocco, Bliss, Gallagher & Perez-Prado 2003) and of the the need to reconcile different philosophical paradigms (Morse, Niehaus, Wolfe & Wilkins 2006) epistemological views (Robins, Ware, dosReis, Willging, Chung & Lewis-Fernández 2006) and orientations to meaning (Shank 2006). Learning about the design choices associated with mixing methods and the rationales which inform them (Rocco et al 2003) is important to understanding what mixing methods entails. However, a lack of practical guidance about undertaking mixed methods research (Andrew & Halcom 2006/2007; Robins et al 2006) means novice researchers often struggle to understand how to execute and report such studies.

The symposium on Computer Assisted Multiple and Blended Research eases this struggle by showcasing approaches for designing, executing and reporting computer-assisted mixed methods research. The symposium focuses specifically on the possibilities for, and parameters of, integrating data analyses and interpretations in mixed methods studies using software support. As editors, Eugenio De Gregorio and Francesco Arcidiacono note in their opening editorial, decisions about using software tools require an appreciation of their ontological, epistemological and methodological impact (De Gregorio & Arcidiacono 2008). Consequently they have themed the symposium around understanding how researchers use software technologies to produce research outcomes, and how, in combination, researchers and technology facilitate the knowledge building process.

By canvassing current methodological thinking and practice the symposium provides an excellent introduction to the challenges of, and potential for, software-supported mixed method research. Reviews of how mixed method research and qualitative data analysis software have developed contextualise the use of these two research approaches and highlight key considerations for research design. Arcidiacono and De Gregorio's (2008) overview of how mixed methods are seen and being adopted in psychology details the challenges of implementing mixed method studies.

Speculating about the influence of software development on mixed research methods Bazeley (2008) highlights several prerogatives for enhancing coding and integration.

Empirical studies complement these discussions by showcasing the current state of the art in research practice and reporting. Studies by Gatti and Gaesi (2008) and by Proctor, Carmichael and Laterza (2008) of computer-mediated fora highlight the use of computer-generated data to foster new analytical insights. Gatti and Gaesi (2008) examined qualitative and quantitative data from forum postings and chat sessions to investigate the communicative demands expressed by users of an online youth support service. Usage patterns determined with quantitative data from forum usage records and chat messages provided the context for qualitative analyses of message content and communicative actions using ATLAS ti. Proctor et al (2008) used a computer-assisted sequential quant-qual design to explore usage behaviour in an online research environment. Graphs of usage behaviour determined from computer-generated usage logs provided the focus for qualitative interviews to explore use of, and sense making about, using the online environment.

Studies by Andrew, Salamonson and Halcomb (2008) and by Alivernini, Lucidi and Manganelli (2008) demonstrated how integrating computer-supported analyses of qualitative and quantitative data can deepen understanding of participant perspectives. Andrew et al (2008) used SPSS and NVivo in a concurrent nested design to investigate student attrition and retention in a Bachelor of Nursing program. Quantitative data analysis using SPSS contextualized qualitative responses about support at university. Analysing qualitative data using NVivo identified the forms of social support participants identified as relevant to their university experience. Integrating analyses revealed associations between participant characteristics and qualitative responses. Alivernini et al (2008) used a sequential qual - quant design to study student motivation in primary and secondary school. Using NVivo, Alivernini et al coded their qualitative data inductively and deductively to create categories of meaning which reflected data content and relevance to theoretical constructs about motivation. Transferring coded data to SPSS enabled statistical inferential analyses to explore the influence of grade and gender on student motivation.

Colucci and Montali (2008), Lu and Shulman (2008) and Parmeggini (2008) demonstrated how integrating different forms of computer support can generate new analytical insights into research processes and findings. Lu and Shulman (2008) developed the Coding Analysis Toolkit (CAT) to overcome the limitations of the ATLAS ti program. Integrating the two programs inspired, in turn, new analytical approaches. Colucci and Montali (2008) and Parmeggini (2008) showcased how quasi-experimental designs enhanced understanding of, and findings from, computer-assisted qualitative data analysis. Colucci and Montali (2008) undertook their discourse analysis of newspaper reports about a controversial cancer drug treatment used two different software programs. Comparing findings from discrete analyses undertaken with NUD*IST and Alceste allowed validation of interpretations as by comparing the results of two experiments. Parmeggini (2008) used Transana to teach students how to undertake semiotic analysis, ethnographic method and visual sociology analysis of video images. Establishing as experimental controls the video data and use of computer support helped students to appreciate how varying the analytical method generated distinct research insights and to understand the discrete and relative merits of each type of analysis.

The symposium canvasses well the considerations associated with adopting a mixed method design, such as the need to determine whether a mixed methods design is needed, selecting qualitative and quantitative components, and the challenges of integrating data, methodologies and interpretations. Likewise, the discussions of computer assistance highlight important considerations about whether to use computer support, which software programs to use, and coding processes. The symposium also provided some useful insights into the decision processes associated with choosing between alternative methods (Procter et al 2008), selecting software support (Parmeggini 2008) and determining the sequence of analysis and reporting (Colucci & Montali 2008). More discussion of lessons learned and advice for those looking to use such approaches in future (see Colucci & Montali 2008; Parmeggini 2008) would have also helped researchers better understand the unintended outcomes that may result from the choices they make.

The empirical studies also provided excellent models for reporting computer-assisted research. Clearly differentiating the underlying analytical strategy from the tactical-level use of software features and functions isolated the contribution of technology to data generation and analysis. Detailed accounts of analytical processes highlighted the value of individual programs for coding qualitative data to identify topics raised by participants, for analyzing quantitative data to identify behavioural patterns and sample characteristics, and for supporting multiple analytical approaches. Articulating the value of using programs together illustrated how integrating the analyses and outputs from different software improved coding accuracy and coding checks, complemented their individual strengths and weaknesses, and enabled testing of the validity and representativeness of findings. Illustrations of alternative research designs and analytic outputs evidenced the value of visual models and figures for for helping readers understand what computer assisted analysis entailed and how it informed the researchers' understanding and conclusions. This compilation would be a particularly valuable teaching resource for demonstrating the variety of reporting devices and as a focus for critical comparative discussion of different approaches.

As Bazeley (2008) notes in her epilogue, mixed methods has only recently come of age as a third research genre and software tools are likely to be key to the field's future development. She warns that while technological developments may facilitate methodological innovation harnessing this potential will require a solid understanding of analytical processes, clear strategies for integrating data and analyses, and imaginative exploration of new possibilities. Her speculations as to whether software developments will homogenize design and analyses, or see researchers prioritize breadth over depth in qualitative analysis, raise interesting possibilities. Software, like any other form of technology, represents an enactment of social behaviour (Pfaffenger 1998).

The assumptions, preferences, beliefs and behaviours of the social context are encapsulated by the principles of the technological design and are enacted through the operations and outputs the technology achieves (Layton 1974). The prevalence of specific software programs might encourage the use of analytical techniques they support. This may include researchers prioritising breadth over depth in qualitative analyses as they explore the ‘methodological ecstasies and madnesses' (Seidel 1991) that new technologies facilitate.

Experimentation will establish which approaches are better suited for particular research questions and contexts but analytic strategising will still require researchers to determine whether and how to apply existing methods or craft novel approaches. In this sense, the overall impact of software developments on research design may be more analogous to the impact of word processing software on creative writing. Widespread adoption of Microsoft Word may have standardized document production but the writer still determines the quality of the story and its telling.

Maturing the mixed methods field will depend upon continued discussions about how combining research approaches and forms of computer assistance affects research processes and outcomes. Exploring further the ways in which mixed methods create new knowledge depends upon the methodological contribution of mixed method studies being recognised alongside theoretical and practical contributions (Hurmerinta-Peltomäki & Nummela 2006).

Multidisciplinary conferences such as the upcoming 5th International Mixed Methods Conference, the 2nd International Workshop on Computer-Aided Qualitative Research and 5th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry provide valuable fora for sharing and learning from personal experiences of mixed methods research. Multidisciplinary journals such as the International Journal of Mixed Research Approaches stimulate and disseminate to a broader audience the discussions through which the field will advance. By provoking reflective discussion special issues such as the upcoming volumes dedicated to mixed methods for novice researchers and teaching mixed methodologies will help to establish the prerogatives for making mixed methods research accessible to new researchers.

Megan Woods, Lecturer, School of Management, University of Tasmania

References

Alivernini F, Lucidi F and Manganelli S (2008) Assessment of academic motivation: a computer assisted mixed methods study, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 71-82.

Andrew S and Halcomb EJ (2006/ 2007) Mixed methods research is an effective method of enquiry for community health research, Contemporary Nurse 23(2): 145- 153.

Andrew S, Salamonson Y and Halcomb EJ (2008) Integrating mixed methods data analysis using NVivo: an example examining attrition and persistence of nursing students, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 36-43.

Arcidiacono F and De Gregorio E (2008) Methodological thinking in psychology: starting from mixed methods,International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 118-126.

Atman, CJ, Kilgore D and McKenna A (2008) Characterizing Design Learning: A Mixed-Methods Study of Engineering Designers' Use of Language, Journal of Engineering Education 97(3): 309- 326.

Bazeley P (2008) Epilogue - software tools and the development of multiple and mixed methods research,International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 127-131.

Colucci FP and Montali L (2008) Comparative application of two methodological approaches to the analysis of discourses, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 57-70.

De Gregorio E and Arcidiacono F (2008) Symposium editorial - computer-assisted analysis of the social sciences: A unique strategy for mixed research? International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 31-35.

Gatti F and Galesi D (2008) New technologies for youth communication: a blended research design to study help relationships on the Internet, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 83-93.

Hurmerinta-Peltomäki L and Nummela N (2006) Mixed Methods in International Business Research: A Value-added Perspective, Management International Review 46(4): 439- 459.

Johnson BR and Onwuegbuzie AJ (2004) Mixed methods research: a research paradigm whose time has come,Educational Researcher 33(7): 14-26.

Layton E T (1974) Technology as knowledge, Technology and Culture 15, 31-44.

Lu C-J and Shulman SW (2008) Rigor and flexibility in computer-based qualitative research: introducing the Coding Analysis Toolkit, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 105-117.

Morse JM, Niehaus L, Wolfe RR & Wilkins S (2006) The role of the theoretical drive in maintaining validity in mixed-method research, Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(4): 279- 291.

Onwuegbuzie AJ, Witcher AE, Collins KMT, Filler JD, Wiedmaier CD and Moore CW. (2007) Students perceptions of characteristics of effective college teachers: a validity study of a teaching evaluation form using a mixed methods analysis, American Education Research Journal 44(1): 113-160.

Parmeggini P (2008) Teaching different research methods through the use of video analysis software for media students: a case study, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 94-104.

Pfaffenger B (1988) Microcomputer Applications in Qualitative Research. London, Sage.

Procter R, Carmichael P and Laterza V (2008) Co-interpretation of usage data: a mixed-methods approach to the evaluation of online environments, International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 2(1): 44-56.

Robins CS, Ware NC, dosReis S, Willging CE, Chung JY and Lewis-Fernández R (2008) Dialogues on Mixed-Methods and Mental Health Services Research: Anticipating Challenges, Building Solutions, Psychiatric Services 59 (7): 727- 731.

Rocco TS, Bliss LA, Gallagher S and Perez-Prado A (2003) Taking the next step: mixed methods research in organizational systems, Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal 21(1): 19 - 29.

Sale JEM and Brazil K (2004) A strategy to identify critical appraisal criteria for primary mixed-method studies,Quality & Quantity 38, 351 - 365.

Shank G (2006) Six alternatives to mixed methods in qualitative research, Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(4): 346-356.

Seidel J (1991) Method and madness in the application of computer technology to qualitative data analysis, in NG Fielding & RM Lee (Eds) Using Computers in Qualitative Research. Sage, London.

Strasser F, Binswanger J, Cerny T and Kesselring A (2007) Fighting a losing battle: eating-related distress of men with advanced cancer and their female partners. A mixed-methods study, Palliative Medicine 21(2): 129 - 137.

Waldrop D P (2007) Caregiver Grief in Terminal Illness and Bereavement: A Mixed-Methods Study, Health & Social Work 32(3): 197- 206.


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