Our Focus: Supporting Qualitative and Mixed Methods

Qualitative and mixed methods are ubiquitous at RAND, as they allow researchers to develop formative understandings of processes and to link these understandings with quantitative data collection and analysis. We encourage the use of — and innovations in — the following areas:

Mixed Methods

Mixed methods research integrates, or “mixes,” quantitative and qualitative data within a single investigation or sustained program of inquiry. Such integration permits a more complete and complementary use of data than would be the case for separate quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis.

  • Understanding U.S. Health Systems: Unpacking Complexity Using Mixed Methods

    Data from secondary sources can help identify and map health systems, but does not adequately describe them or the variation that exists within and across systems. A mixed-methods approach provides granular qualitative data enabling researchers to describe multi-layered health systems, grasp the context in which they operate, and identify the key drivers of performance.

  • Million Hearts Initiative Successes and Challenges

    A mixed-methods approach that involved an environmental scan, key informant interviews, and a social network analysis enabled researchers to assess the current state of the Million Hearts initiative and to understand how this initiative might grow and strengthen the goal of decreasing cardiovascular disease.

More examples of Mixed Methods

Interviews and Focus Groups

Interviews may be semi-structured or exploratory and are generally conducted one-on-one; focus groups are interviews involving a number of individuals at once, sometimes with the goal of finding consensus. Expert elicitation may take place in person or online and often has the goal of developing an expert consensus.

  • Identifying Barriers to Female Retention in the U.S. Coast Guard

    A mixed-methods study sought to identify the root causes of female attrition in the active-duty Coast Guard. Researchers conducted 164 focus groups with 1,010 active-duty Coast Guard women to better understand potential barriers to female retention, and 27 focus groups with 127 active-duty men.

  • Innovative Methods for Rigorously Eliciting and Assessing Patient Narratives

    Researchers designed a methodology for rigorously eliciting narratives about patients' experiences with clinical care. They determined that narrative elicitation protocols suitable for inclusion in patient experience surveys can be designed and tested against objective performance criteria, thus advancing the science of public reporting.

More examples of Interviews and Focus Groups

Community-based Participatory Research

Community-based participatory research is a partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, researchers, and others in all aspects of the research process, with all partners in the process contributing expertise and sharing in decision-making and ownership.

It includes such activities as community meetings and workshops, field observation, and collaborative partnerships. In the process, researchers may develop and analyze case studies.

More examples of Community-Based Participatory Research

Cultural and Social Network Analysis

Research on cultural and social networks includes cultural domain analysis, cultural consensus analysis, and egocentric network or personal network analysis.

  • Developing a Manual for Cultural Analysis

    Drawing from cognitive and evolutionary anthropology traditions, the authors describe a set of tools capable of dealing with cultural data at various emergent levels, ranging from variation among individuals within local subcultures to small- and large-scale network topologies and finally to longstanding lineages of inherited cultural information. This is the first time these techniques have been organized into a single manual structured around a formally theorized notion of culture.

  • A Primer on Analysis of Duocentric Social Networks

    Marriages and other intimate partnerships are facilitated or constrained by the social networks within which they are embedded. This paper describes methods of collecting and analyzing duocentric social networks, that is, the combined social networks of couples.

More examples of Cultural Analysis

Content Analysis

Content analysis may involve anything from a small number of documents to large datasets pulled from social media. Researchers may use computational linguistics to analyze the content, or conduct a thematic analysis.

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Literature Reviews

As a method, the literature review includes such elements as narrative or descriptive analysis, logic models, systematic reviews, and meta analysis.

  • Challenges in Systematic Reviews of Qualitative Research

    Systematic reviews of qualitative research are useful, but pose challenges for researchers. Many debates over their value arise from the tension between the positivistic, aggregative approach of systematic reviews of intervention effectiveness and the interpretive nature of most qualitative research.

  • Using Existing Systematic Reviews in Complex Systematic Reviews

    Reviewers seeking to incorporate existing reviews into new reviews face several questions. Drawing from their collective experience, the authors outline a series of steps that can help reviewers reach reasoned decisions about the incorporation of existing systematic reviews and enumerate potential hazards to consider in doing so.

More examples of Literature Reviews

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