Selected Reads

Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (By John Creswell)

I am a big fan of John Creswell’s works. I have read a number of his research methodology books but Research Design is my favorite among them all. I first read it in 2011, a few months into my Master of Arts in Education program and since then I kept coming back to it throughout my graduate studies and beyond. In Research Design, Creswell explains in detail the three main research designs: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. He also mapped the theoretical literature underlying these research designs and provided a solid conceptualization of the theories and philosophical assumptions underlying them. 

The book is divided into two main parts: Part I: Preliminary Considerations and Part II Designing Research. In the Preliminary Considerations part, Creswell covers the following topics: the selection of a research design, review of the literature, the use of theory, writing strategies,  and ethical considerations. 

In the Designing Research part, the author  explains the main elements of the research process. He talks about the importance of introductions in research papers and explains how to write them  for qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. He also touched topics related to purpose statements, research questions, and hypotheses.

What is a research design?

According to Creswell, research designs are “the plans and the procedures for research that span the decisions from broad assumptions to detailed methods of data collection and analysis”. The selection of a research design is informed by a number of key considerations including: the researcher’s own assumptions and worldviews, the nature of the research problem, strategies of research, methods of data collection and analysis, audience of the study, and more. There are three types of research designs: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.

What is qualitative research?

According to Creswell, qualitative research is “a means for exploring and understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem. The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data. The final written report has a flexible structure”.

Qualitative researchers tend to highlight inductive processes, individual and social meanings, interpretations, and flexibility in reporting research results. Some strategies of inquiry that are mainly associated with qualitative research include ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, phenomenological research, and narrative research. 

What is quantitative research?

According to Creswell, quantitative research is “a means for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables. These variables, in turn, can be measured, typically on instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statistical procedures”. Some strategies of inquiry that are mainly associated with quantitative research include survey research and experimental research. 

What is mixed methods research?

According to Creswell, mixed methods research is  “an approach to inquiry that combines or associates both qualitative and quantitative forms. It involves philosophical assumptions, the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches, and the mixing of both approaches in a study”. However, a mixed methods approach is much more than simply using two or more research designs, it is the deliberate combination of different data collection and analysis techniques with the intent of tapping into conclusions and research results that can not otherwise be reached using a single method.