Cancer Communication Research Center

The Importance of Mixed Methods in Cancer Communication Research

Increasingly acceptable in many scientific disciplines, mixed methods research presents many opportunities for the field of cancer communication to gain a richer and more complex understanding of the topic of inquiry. Among its many benefits, integrating quantitative and qualitative methodologies enables researchers to balance the weaknesses of one methodology with the strengths of another and vice versa.

The National Institutes of Health's Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research recently commissioned a group of leaders in the field of mixed methods research to develop best practices. Their report, Best Practices for Mixed Methods Research in the Health Sciences, issued in August 2011, serves as an important resource for budding mixed methods researchers. The creation of formal guidelines is an encouraging step towards acceptance of this emergent research paradigm that holds great potential to yield useful, applicable and more nuanced research findings. The NIH press release and a link to the report can be found at:

Currently immersed in dissertation work, I'm learning firsthand the benefits of engaging my topic from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. The quantitative portion of my research enables me to test whether hypotheses that I've developed are statistically significant, but really, there's more to the big picture. Since my work focuses on leukemia and lymphoma survivors, it seems equally important to capture their experiences and psychosocial needs as they articulate them, not just as I theorize and hypothesize. By using mixed methods, I've learned the value of not only testing my own hypotheses using statistics, but also delving into interviews with cancer survivors to see if they echo my findings, offer suggestions as to why certain findings weren't statistically significant, or offer entirely new suggestions that can guide future research. All in all, I'm encouraged and excited about the possibilities that abound with the increasing use and acceptance of mixed methods research in cancer communication.

Whitney Jones
University of Colorado Denver School of Health and Behavioral Sciences
2011 CCRC Doctoral Fellow

Written by CCRC at 13:03




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