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Research Design
Fifth Edition

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I dedicate this book to all of my mentees and former students over the years who have engaged in this fascinating
process of research and who have welcomed my suggestions for improving their scholarly works. I also welcome my son,
J. David Creswell, a noted psychologist and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, as my coauthor.

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Research Design
Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches

Fifth Edition

John W. Creswell
Department of Family Medicine University of Michigan

J. David Creswell
Department of Psychology Carnegie Mellon University

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FOR INFORMATION:

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Creswell, John W., author. | Creswell, J. David, author.

Title: Research design : qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches / John W. Creswell, PhD, Department of Family Medicine,
University of Michigan, and J. David Creswell, PhD, Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University.

Description: Fifth edition. | Los Angeles : SAGE, [2018] | Includes bibliographical references and index.

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Identifiers: LCCN 2017044644 | ISBN 978-1-5063-8670-6 (pbk. : alk. paper)

Subjects: LCSH: Social sciences—Research—Methodology. | Social sciences—Statistical methods.

Classification: LCC H62 .C6963 2018 | DDC 300.72/1—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017044644

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https://lccn.loc.gov/2017044644

Brief Contents

1. Analytic Contents of Research Techniques
2. Preface
3. Companion Website
4. Acknowledgments
5. About the Authors
6. Part I Preliminary Considerations

1. Chapter 1 The Selection of a Research Approach
2. Chapter 2 Review of the Literature
3. Chapter 3 The Use of Theory
4. Chapter 4 Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations

7. Part II Designing Research
1. Chapter 5 The Introduction
2. Chapter 6 The Purpose Statement
3. Chapter 7 Research Questions and Hypotheses
4. Chapter 8 Quantitative Methods
5. Chapter 9 Qualitative Methods
6. Chapter 10 Mixed Methods Procedures

8. Glossary
9. References

10. Author Index
11. Subject Index

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Detailed Contents

1. Analytic Contents of Research Techniques
2. Preface

1. Purpose
2. Audience
3. Format
4. Outline of Chapters

3. Companion Website
4. Acknowledgments
5. About the Authors
6. Part I Preliminary Considerations

1. Chapter 1 The Selection of a Research Approach
1. The Three Approaches to Research
2. Three Components Involved in an Approach

1. Philosophical Worldviews
1. The Postpositivist Worldview
2. The Constructivist Worldview
3. The Transformative Worldview
4. The Pragmatic Worldview

2. Research Designs
1. Quantitative Designs
2. Qualitative Designs
3. Mixed Methods Designs

3. Research Methods
3. Research Approaches as Worldviews, Designs, and Methods
4. Criteria for Selecting a Research Approach

1. The Research Problem and Questions
2. Personal Experiences
3. Audience

5. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

6. Additional Readings
2. Chapter 2 Review of the Literature

1. The Research Topic
2. The Literature Review

1. The Use of the Literature
2. Design Techniques

1. Steps in Conducting a Literature Review

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2. Searching Computerized Databases
3. A Priority for Selecting Literature Material
4. A Literature Map of the Research
5. Abstracting Studies

3. ▶Example 2.1. Literature Review Abstract in a Quantitative Study
4. ▶Example 2.2. Literature Review Abstract in a Study Advancing a Typology

1. Style Manuals
5. The Definition of Terms
6. ▶Example 2.3. Terms Defined in an Independent Variables Section
7. ▶Example 2.4. Terms Defined in a Mixed Methods Dissertation
8. A Quantitative or Mixed Methods Literature Review

3. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

4. Additional Readings
3. Chapter 3 The Use of Theory

1. Quantitative Theory Use
1. Testing Causal Claims in Quantitative Research
2. Variables in Quantitative Research
3. Definition of a Theory in Quantitative Research
4. Forms of Theories in Quantitative Research
5. Placement of Quantitative Theories
6. Writing a Quantitative Theoretical Perspective
7. ▶Example 3.1. A Quantitative Theory Section

2. Qualitative Theory Use
1. Variation in Theory Use in Qualitative Research
2. Locating the Theory in Qualitative Research
3. ▶Example 3.2. A Theory Early in a Qualitative Study

3. Mixed Methods Theory Use
1. ▶Example 3.3. A Theory at the End of a Qualitative Study
2. Social Science Theory Use
3. Participatory–Social Justice Theory Use
4. Box 3.1. Transformative-Emancipatory Questions for Mixed Methods Researchers

Throughout the Research Process
5. ▶Example 3.4. Theory in a Feminist Mixed Methods Study

4. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

5. Additional Readings
4. Chapter 4 Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations

1. Writing the Proposal
1. Arguments Presented in a Proposal

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2. Format for a Qualitative Proposal
3. ▶Example 4.1. A Qualitative Constructivist/Interpretivist Format
4. ▶Example 4.2. A Qualitative Participatory–Social Justice Format
5. Format for a Quantitative Proposal
6. ▶Example 4.3. A Quantitative Format
7. Format for a Mixed Methods Proposal
8. ▶Example 4.4. A Mixed Methods Format
9. Designing the Sections of a Proposal

2. Writing Ideas
1. Writing as Thinking
2. The Habit of Writing
3. Readability of the Manuscript
4. ▶Example 4.5. An Illustration of the Hook-and-Eye Technique
5. Voice, Tense, and “Fat”

3. Ethical Issues to Anticipate
1. Prior to Beginning the Study
2. Beginning the Study
3. Collecting the Data
4. Analyzing the Data
5. Reporting, Sharing, and Storing Data

4. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

5. Additional Readings
7. Part II Designing Research

1. Chapter 5 The Introduction
1. The Importance of Introductions
2. An Abstract for a Study
3. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Introductions
4. A Model for an Introduction

1. An Illustration
2. The Research Problem
3. Studies Addressing the Problem
4. Deficiencies in Past Literature
5. ▶Example 5.1. Deficiencies in the Literature—Needed Studies
6. ▶Example 5.2. Deficiencies in the Literature—Few Studies
7. Significance of a Study for Audiences
8. ▶Example 5.3. Significance of the Study Stated in an Introduction to a Quantitative

Study
5. Summary

1. ▶Writing Exercises

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6. Additional Readings
2. Chapter 6 The Purpose Statement

1. Significance and Meaning of a Purpose Statement
1. A Qualitative Purpose Statement
2. ▶Example 6.1. A Purpose Statement in a Qualitative Phenomenology Study
3. ▶Example 6.2. A Purpose Statement in a Case Study
4. ▶Example 6.3. A Purpose Statement in an Ethnography
5. ▶Example 6.4. A Purpose Statement in a Grounded Theory Study
6. A Quantitative Purpose Statement
7. ▶Example 6.5. A Purpose Statement in a Published Survey Study
8. ▶Example 6.6. A Purpose Statement in a Dissertation Survey Study
9. ▶Example 6.7. A Purpose Statement in an Experimental Study

10. A Mixed Methods Purpose Statement
11. ▶Example 6.8. A Convergent Mixed Methods Purpose Statement
12. ▶Example 6.9. An Explanatory Sequential Mixed Methods Purpose Statement
13. ▶Example 6.10. An Exploratory Sequential Mixed Methods Purpose Statement

2. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

3. Additional Readings
3. Chapter 7 Research Questions and Hypotheses

1. Qualitative Research Questions
1. ▶Example 7.1. A Qualitative Central Question From an Ethnography
2. ▶Example 7.2. Qualitative Central Questions From a Case Study

2. Quantitative Research Questions and Hypotheses
1. ▶Example 7.3. A Null Hypothesis
2. ▶Example 7.4. Directional Hypotheses
3. ▶Example 7.5. Nondirectional and Directional Hypotheses
4. ▶Example 7.6. Standard Use of Language in Hypotheses
5. A Model for Descriptive Questions and Hypotheses
6. ▶Example 7.7. Descriptive and Inferential Questions

3. Mixed Methods Research Questions and Hypotheses
1. ▶Example 7.8. Hypotheses and Research Questions in a Mixed Methods Study
2. ▶Example 7.9. A Mixed Methods Question Written Using Methods and Content

Language
4. Summary

1. ▶Writing Exercises
5. Additional Readings

4. Chapter 8 Quantitative Methods
1. Defining Surveys and Experiments
2. Components of a Survey Study Method Plan

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1. The Survey Design
2. The Population and Sample
3. Instrumentation
4. Variables in the Study
5. Data Analysis
6. Interpreting Results and Writing a Discussion Section
7. ▶Example 8.1. A Survey Method Plan

3. Components of an Experimental Study Method Plan
1. Participants
2. Variables
3. Instrumentation and Materials
4. Experimental Procedures
5. ▶Example 8.2. Pre-experimental Designs
6. ▶Example 8.3. Quasi-experimental Designs
7. ▶Example 8.4. True Experimental Designs
8. ▶Example 8.5. Single-Subject Designs
9. Threats to Validity

10. The Procedure
11. Data Analysis
12. Interpreting Results and Writing a Discussion Section
13. ▶Example 8.6. An Experimental Method Plan

4. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

5. Additional Readings
5. Chapter 9 Qualitative Methods

1. The Characteristics of Qualitative Research
2. Qualitative Designs
3. The Researcher’s Role and Reflexivity
4. Data Collection Procedures
5. Data Recording Procedures
6. Data Analysis Procedures
7. Interpretation
8. Validity and Reliability
9. Writing the Qualitative Report

1. ▶Example 9.1. Qualitative Procedures
10. Summary

1. ▶Writing Exercises
11. Additional Readings

6. Chapter 10 Mixed Methods Procedures
1. Components of Mixed Methods Procedures

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1. Describe Mixed Methods Research
2. Types of Mixed Methods Designs

1. Convergent Mixed Methods Design
2. Explanatory Sequential Mixed Methods Design
3. Exploratory Sequential Mixed Methods Design
4. Several Complex Mixed Methods Designs

3. A Procedure for Embedding Core Designs Into Complex Designs
4. Factors Important in Choosing a Mixed Methods Design
5. Examples of Mixed Methods Procedures

1. ▶Example 10.1. A Convergent Parallel Mixed Methods Design
2. ▶Example 10.2. An Explanatory Sequential Mixed Methods Design
3. ▶Example 10.3. An Exploratory Sequential Mixed Methods Design
4. ▶Example 10.4. A Social Justice Design

6. Summary
1. ▶Writing Exercises

7. Additional Readings
8. Glossary
9. References

10. Author Index
11. Subject Index

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Analytic Contents of Research Techniques

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Chapter 1. The Selection of a Research Approach

Determining your research approach
Identifying a worldview with which you are most comfortable
Defining the three types of research approaches
Using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods designs and methods

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Chapter 2. Review of the Literature

Assessing whether your topic is researchable
Using steps in conducting a literature review
Using computerized databases available for reviewing the literature
Developing a priority for types of literature to review
Designing a literature map
Writing a good abstract of a research study
Using important elements of a style manual
Defining terms
Employing a model for writing a literature review

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Chapter 3. The Use of Theory

Testing causal claims in quantitative research
Identifying variables in a quantitative study
Defining the nature of a quantitative theory
Using a script to write a theoretical perspective into a quantitative study
Considering the types of theories used in qualitative research
Placing theories in a qualitative study
Placing a theoretical lens into a mixed methods study

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Chapter 4. Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations

Assessing the structure of a proposal for qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies
Using writing strategies for drafting a proposal
Developing a habit of writing
Constructing umbrella thoughts, big thoughts, little thoughts, and attention thoughts in writing
Developing writing consistency through the hook-and-eye technique
Using principles of writing good prose
Anticipating ethical issues in many phases of the research process

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Chapter 5. The Introduction

Writing an abstract for a study
Exploring differences among quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods introductions
Using the deficiency model for writing an introduction
Designing a good narrative hook
Writing about the research problem
Summarizing the literature about a research problem
Pointing out deficiencies in past literature
Considering audiences that may profit from your study

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Chapter 6. The Purpose Statement

Using a script for writing a qualitative purpose statement
Considering how the script would change depending on your qualitative design
Using a script for writing a quantitative purpose statement
Considering how the script would change depending on your quantitative design
Using a script for writing a mixed methods purpose statement
Considering how the script would change depending on your mixed methods design

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Chapter 7. Research Questions and Hypotheses

Writing a script for a qualitative central question
Considering how this script would change depending on the qualitative design
Writing a script for quantitative research questions and hypotheses
Considering how this script would change depending on the quantitative design and the different types
of hypotheses
Using a model for descriptive and inferential quantitative questions and hypotheses
Writing scripts for different forms of research questions for a mixed methods study

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Chapter 8. Quantitative Methods

Using a checklist for survey research to form topic sections of a survey procedure
Employing steps in analyzing data for a survey procedure
Writing a complete survey methods discussion
Using a checklist for experimental research to form sections for an experimental procedure
Identifying the type of experimental procedure that best fits your proposed study
Drawing a diagram of experimental procedures
Identifying the potential internal validity and external validity threats to your proposed study

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Chapter 9. Qualitative Methods

Using a checklist for qualitative research to form topic sections of a procedure
Stating the basic characteristics of qualitative research
Determining how reflexivity will be included in a proposed study
Weighing the different types of data collected in qualitative research
Employing steps in the qualitative data analysis process
Establishing validity in qualitative research

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Chapter 10. Mixed Methods Procedures

Stating a definition and the characteristics of mixed methods research
Using a convergent mixed methods design
Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design
Employing an exploratory sequential mixed methods design
Using one of the complex mixed methods designs
Choosing which design is best for a mixed methods study

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Preface

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Purpose
This book advances a framework, a process, and compositional approaches for designing a proposal or
research project for qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research in the human, health, and social
sciences. The ascendency of qualitative research, the emergence of mixed methods approaches, and the growth
of quantitative designs have created a need for this book’s unique comparison of the three approaches to
inquiry. This comparison begins with preliminary consideration of philosophical assumptions for all three
approaches, a review of the literature, an assessment of the use of theory and conceptual frameworks in
research approaches, and reflections about the importance of writing and ethics in scholarly inquiry. The book
then addresses the key elements in the process of designing and conducting a research project: writing an
introduction; stating a purpose or research aims for the study; identifying research questions and hypotheses;
and advancing methods and procedures for data collection, analysis, and interpretation. At each step in this
process, the reader is taken through qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.

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Audience
This book is intended for students and faculty who seek assistance in preparing a plan, proposal, or research
project for a scholarly journal article, a dissertation, a thesis, or an application for funding. At a broader level,
the book may be useful as both a reference book and a textbook for courses in research methods. To best take
advantage of the design features in this book, the reader needs a basic familiarity with qualitative and
quantitative research; however, terms will be explained and defined and recommended strategies advanced for
those needing introductory assistance in the design process. Highlighted terms in the text and a glossary of the
terms at the back of the book provide a working language for understanding research. This book also is
intended for a broad audience in the human, health, and social sciences. Readers’ comments from the past
four editions suggest that individuals using the book come from many disciplines and fields. We hope that
researchers in fields such as marketing, management, criminal justice, communication studies, psychology,
sociology, K–12 education, higher and postsecondary education, nursing, family medicine, health services
research, global health, behavioral health, urban studies, family research, and other fields of study will find this
fifth edition useful.

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Format
In each chapter, we share examples drawn from varied disciplines. These examples are drawn from books,
journal articles, dissertation proposals, and dissertations. Though our primary specialization is in educational
psychology, the health sciences, and in psychology, the illustrations are intended to be inclusive of many fields.
They reflect issues in social justice and examples of studies with marginalized individuals in our society as well
as the traditional samples and populations studied by researchers. Inclusiveness also extends to methodological
pluralism in research today, and the discussion incorporates alternative philosophical ideas, diverse modes of
inquiry, and numerous procedures.

This book is not a detailed method text; instead, we highlight the essential features of research design. We
have attempted to reduce research to its essential core ideas so that researchers can plan a thorough and
thoughtful study. The coverage of research designs is limited to frequently used forms: surveys and
experiments in quantitative research; narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and
case studies in qualitative research; and convergent, explanatory sequential, and exploratory sequential designs
in mixed methods research. Although students preparing a dissertation proposal should find this book helpful,
topics related to the politics of presenting and negotiating a study with review committees are addressed
thoroughly in other texts.

Consistent with accepted conventions of scholarly writing, we have tried to eliminate any words or examples
that convey a discriminatory (e.g., sexist or ethnic) orientation. Examples were selected to provide a full range
of gender and cultural orientations. Throughout the text we do not favor either qualitative or quantitative
research. Indeed, we have intentionally altered the order of qualitative and quantitative examples throughout
the book. Readers should also note that in the longer examples cited in this book, many references are made to
other writings. Only the reference to the work we use in the illustration will be cited, not the entire list of
references embedded within any particular example. As with earlier editions, we have maintained features to
enhance the readability and understandability of the material: bullets to emphasize key points, numbered
points to stress key steps in a process, and longer examples of complete passages with annotations to highlight
key research ideas that are being conveyed by the authors.

In this fifth edition of the book, new features have been added in response to developments in research and
reader feedback:

In this edition, we shape the discussion not only around designing a proposal for a research project but also
around the steps in designing a research study. Thus, the emphasis on designing a research study (as
opposed to focusing only on a proposal) is slightly larger for this edition than in past editions.
We have added more information about the epistemological and ontological assumptions as they relate
to research questions and methods.
In the worldview section, we now include more on the transformative worldview.
In the methods discussion, we have added more on specific approaches such as case studies,

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participatory action research, and visual methods in qualitative research.
Also in the qualitative methods, we have added information about social media and online qualitative
methods. Also, we have added more information on memoing and on reflexivity.
In the mixed methods, we now incorporate information about action research (participatory research)
and program evaluation.
In the respective methods chapters, we have included more on qualitative and quantitative data analysis
software.
In the theory section, we have added information about causality, and then incorporated its relationship
to statistics in the quantitative methods.
For our quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods sections, we have incorporated sections on writing
discussion sections into each of these methodologies.
We have incorporated new information into all of our methods chapters—quantitative, qualitative, and
mixed methods. Our mixed methods chapter now reflects the latest advances in the field.
Throughout the book, we have cited updated editions of research methods books that have emerged
since the last edition and added current references and additional readings.

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Outline of Chapters
This book is divided into two parts. Part I consist of steps that researchers need to consider before they develop
their proposals or plans for research. Part II discusses the various sections used to develop a scholarly research
proposal for a thesis, dissertation, or a research report.

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Part I. Preliminary Considerations

This part of the book discusses preparing for the design of a scholarly study. It contains Chapters 1 through 4.

Chapter 1. The Selection of a Research Approach

In this chapter, we begin by defining quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches. We then
discuss how philosophy, designs, and methods intersect when one uses one of these approaches. We review
different philosophical stances; advanced types of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods designs; and
then discuss the methods associated with each design. We also consider the factors that go into the choice of
an approach to research. Thus, this chapter should help proposal developers decide whether a qualitative,
quantitative, or mixed methods approach is suitable for their proposed research project.

Chapter 2. Review of the Literature

It is important to extensively review the literature on your topic before you design your proposal. Thus, you
need to begin with a researchable topic and then explore the literature using the steps advanced in this
chapter. This calls for setting a priority for selecting material from the literature, drawing a visual map of
studies that relate to your topic, writing good abstracts, employing skills learned from using style manuals, and
defining key terms. This chapter should help researchers thoughtfully consider relevant literature on their
topics and start compiling and writing literature reviews.

Chapter 3. The Use of Theory

Theories serve different purposes in the three approaches inquiry. In quantitative research, they provide a
proposed explanation for the relationship among variables being tested by the investigator. In qualitative
research, they may often serve as a lens for the inquiry or they may be generated during the study. In mixed
methods studies, researchers employ them in many ways, including those associated with quantitative and
qualitative approaches. This chapter helps researchers consider and plan how theory might be incorporated
into their studies.

Chapter 4. Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations

It is helpful to have an overall outline of the topics to be included in a proposal or research study before you
begin writing. Thus, this chapter begins with different outlines for writing proposals. The outlines can be used
as models depending on whether your proposed study is qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods. Then we
convey several ideas about the actual writing of the proposal, such as developing a habit of writing, and
grammar ideas that have been helpful to us in improving our scholarly writing. Finally, we turn to ethical
issues and discuss these not as abstract ideas, but as considerations that need to be anticipated in multiple
phases of the research process.

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Part II. Designing Research

In Part II, we turn to the components of designing the research proposal. Chapters 5 through 10 address steps
in this process.

Chapter 5. The Introduction

It is important to properly introduce a research study. We provide a model for writing a good scholarly
introduction to your proposal. The chapter begins with designing an abstract for a study. This is followed by
developing an introduction to include identifying the research problem or issue, framing this problem within
the existing literature, pointing out deficiencies in the literature, and targeting the study for an audience. This
chapter provides a systematic method for designing a scholarly introduction to a proposal or study.

Chapter 6. The Purpose Statement

At the beginning of research proposals or projects, authors mention the central purpose or intent of the study.
This passage is the most important statement in the entire research process, and an entire chapter is devoted
to this topic. In this chapter, you learn how to write this statement for quantitative, qualitative, and mixed
methods studies, and you will be provided with scripts that help you design and write these statements.

Chapter 7. Research Questions and Hypotheses

The questions and hypotheses addressed by the researcher serve to narrow and focus the purpose of the study.
As a major signpost in a project, the set of research questions and hypotheses needs to be written carefully. In
this chapter, you will learn how to write both qualitative and quantitative research questions and hypotheses,
as well as how to employ both forms in writing mixed methods questions and hypotheses. Numerous
examples serve as scripts to illustrate these processes.

Chapter 8. Quantitative Methods

Quantitative methods involve the processes of collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and writing the results of a
study. Specific methods exist in both survey and experimental research that relate to identifying a sample and
population, specifying the type of design, collecting and analyzing data, presenting the results, making an
interpretation, and writing the research in a manner consistent with a survey or experimental study. In this
chapter, the reader learns the specific procedures for designing survey or experimental methods that need to
go into a research proposal. Checklists provided in the chapter help to ensure that all steps are included.

Chapter 9. Qualitative Methods

Qualitative approaches to data collection, analysis, interpretation, and report writing differ from the
traditional, quantitative approaches. Purposeful sampling, collection of open-ended data, analysis of text or
images (e.g., pictures), representation of information in figures and tables, and personal interpretation of the
findings all inform qualitative methods. This chapter advances steps in designing qualitative procedures into a
research proposal, and it also includes a checklist for making sure that you cover important procedures. Ample

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illustrations provide examples from narrative studies, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and
case studies.

Chapter 10. Mixed Methods Procedures

Mixed methods involves the collection and “mixing” or integration of both quantitative and qualitative data in
a study. It is not enough to only analyze your qualitative and quantitative data. Further analysis consists of
integrating the two databases for additional insight into research problems and questions. Mixed methods
research has increased in popularity in recent years, and this chapter highlights important developments and
provides an introduction to the use of this design. This chapter begins by defining mixed methods research
and the core characteristics that describe it. Then the three core designs in mixed methods research—(a)
convergent, (b) explanatory sequential, and (c) exploratory sequential—are detailed in terms of their
characteristics, data collection and analysis features, and approaches for interpreting and validating the
research. Further, these core designs are employed within other designs (e.g., experiments), within theories
(e.g., feminist research), and within methodologies …

Ch 6 only

1. Distinguish between a purpose statement, research problem, and research questions.
2. What are major ideas that should be included in a qualitative purpose statement?
3. What are the major components of a quantitative purpose statement?
4. What are the major components of a mixed methods purpose statement?  

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