Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods

Creating and adapting techniques to rapidly analyze qualitative and quantitative data

Policy research often requires interviews, focus groups, and site visits to better understand dynamics in communities, institutions, and even technologies. Such data collection techniques inherently produce semi-structured and unstructured data. In the Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods, our experts create and adapt techniques to rapidly collect and analyze these data.

Much research, especially in new or poorly understood topic areas, benefits from integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative methods may be used to explore new or emerging topics, while quantitative tasks may be needed to test a hypothesis or theory.

For example, in machine learning and computational linguistics, qualitative analyses can help make sense of computational analysis by defining major categories or themes of discussion related to a topic. Quantitative analysis can then show statistical differences between how groups discuss topics and ultimately see the world.

By bringing together researchers with diverse backgrounds—from computational experts to language scientists—we ensure that RAND’s mixed methods approaches lead to meaningful conclusions and intersect in novel and productive ways.

Our Focus

Qualitative and mixed methods allow researchers to develop formative understandings of processes and to link these understandings with quantitative data collection and analysis. Our center encourages and is involved with methodological developments in interviews and focus groups, community-based participatory research, cultural and social network analysis, computational linguistics, content analysis, and literature reviews.

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Methods In Action

  • Essay

    How Citizen Scientists Are Protecting Their Communities

    After Superstorm Sandy, residents of Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood cleaned up debris, pumped out basements, and teamed up with researchers to find out what was in the floodwater. They established safety protocols to help local businesses prevent their chemicals from escaping and wrote a guide to help other communities.

  • Report

    Youth in Jordan: Transitions from Education to Employment

    Researchers conducted 13 focus groups and 14 one-on-one qualitative interviews with young Jordanians from urban and rural areas, to understand their perceptions of why youth unemployment remains high and what can be done to help turn the tide. A literature review and secondary analysis of national statistics, as well as interviews with experts, placed these subjective perceptions into perspective.

  • Journal Article

    Testing a Social Network Intervention to Reduce Substance Use

    A small randomized clinical trial found that a brief computer-assisted Motivational Interviewing social network intervention has potential to positively impact readiness to change alcohol and other drug use and abstinence self-efficacy among formerly homeless individuals transitioning to permanent supportive housing.

  • Essay

    A New Way to Capture the Patient Experience

    Researchers have developed a more effective and reliable way for patients to provide narrative feedback about the care they receive. When the right questions are asked, patients' answers can help health care providers better understand the patient experience and learn how they could improve.

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Student Spotlight

  • Telling Stories with Mixed Methods

    Her first course in qualitative and mixed methods didn't start out well, but by the end of the term, Gaby Alvarado (cohort '19) was a convert. A trained physician, she appreciates the chance to understand what is "going on in people's lives" so she can recommend policies that will work.

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