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Mixed methods embedded design in medical education, mental health and health services research: A methodological analysis

Wanqing Zhang, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Quantitative methods aimed at producing generalizable results have long dominated the health sciences, while the essence of qualitative research is to explore and understand complex dynamic phenomena. This study examines the ways mixed methods embedded designs have been applied to intervention studies across three specific areas in health science and, based on this examination, seeks to develop a general methodological template for researchers interested in using embedded designs. ^ I chose a multiple case study approach to qualitative inquiry to gain in-depth knowledge of the status of mixed methods embedded design applications in health interventions. I obtained collective case study data from mixed methods embedded design articles published during the last 10 years and one-on-one interviews with a purposeful sample of six mixed methods researchers across three areas in health science: health services research, mental health, and medical education. ^ Across these three areas in health science, the common reasons to incorporate qualitative research into intervention studies were to add depth, detail, and meaning to empirical findings; to describe the implementation process; to help develop the evaluation plan; and to test and inform the intervention. This study concludes that more rigorous designs and more widespread use of mixed methods are needed to capture the complexity of intervention programs in health science. New methods for implementation research and evidence-based practice need to be explored, and valid qualitative and mixed methods should be developed to enhance the implementation process and improve the effectiveness of health intervention programs. Implementation research moves qualitative methods to a more central place in the research design process. Methodologists might consider adopting a new phrase—"embedded mixed methods implementation research"—to describe what the future holds for health intervention studies. Combining a mixed methods framework with discipline-specific models allows for the development of a comprehensive yet practical methodological template.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Mental Health|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Health

Recommended Citation

Zhang, Wanqing, "Mixed methods embedded design in medical education, mental health and health services research: A methodological analysis" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3487306.