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Exemplars of Mixed Methods Data Combination and Analysis

Happ, Mary Beth; Dabbs, Annette DeVito; Tate, Judith; Hricik, Allison; Erlen, Judith


Background: Mixed methods research approaches can be applied to nursing and healthcare. Multiple perspectives and different types of data (e.g., social-behavioral data, numerical outcome measures, or clinical variables) often are needed to examine complex clinical problems and health behaviors fully. Although qualitative and quantitative methods are recognized widely as complementary for studying and explaining human phenomena, methodological techniques for combining and analyzing mixed methods data have received less attention.

Objectives: To describe techniques for mixed methods data combination and analyses using three different design approaches.

Methods: Data combination and analysis techniques are presented using the following approaches: (a) mixed methods event analysis, (b) concurrent-mixed analysis for complementarity and completeness, and (c) concurrent nested analysis to provide a broader understanding of phenomena and enrich the description of participants.

Results: Research exemplars from topical areas such as weaning from long-term mechanical ventilation, medication-taking among community-dwelling persons with dementia, health control beliefs after lung transplantation, and recovery from subarachnoid hemorrhage are presented. Simple and complex matrix construction and a variety of graphical displays are used to illustrate data combination and analysis techniques for mixed methods research.

Discussion: The techniques for mixed methods data combination and analysis presented have the potential to advance the use and refinement of mixed methods research, thereby expanding the repertoire of methodologies to study complex phenomena of interest to nurses.

Mary Beth Happ, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor; Annette DeVito Dabbs, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor; Judith Tate, MSN, RN, is Research Project Manager; Allison Hricik, MS, is Research Specialist; and Judith Erlen, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, Pennsylvania.

Accepted for publication September 28, 2005.

From the Research Methodology Symposium presented at the 17th Annual ENRS Scientific Sessions, April, 2005, New York, NY. Studies featured in this article were funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research (RO1-NR04339; R01-NR07973), the Alzheimer's Association, and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation.

With thanks to Dr. Mary Kerr who provided research mentorship to Allison Hricik during her tenure at the University of Pittsburgh when this study was conducted.

Corresponding author: Mary Beth Happ, PhD, RN, Acute/Tertiary Care Department, School of Nursing, University of Pittsburgh, 311 Victoria Building, 3500 Victoria Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261 (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.