Digital voice recorder, pen and paper

Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods

Photo by texturis/Fotolia

Context

The RAND Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods (C-QAMM) develops and promotes tools for generating empirically based insights through iterative, exploratory data collection and analysis.

At C-QAMM, we view qualitative and quantitative methods as complementary tools for each stage of a research project to answer a wide range of questions.

This approach proves particularly useful when exploring new topics or cultural contexts. In these cases, the target population might misinterpret existing scales or survey items. Also, researchers might misinterpret patterns in data without a sufficient knowledge of local perspectives and processes.

Within RAND, the center acts as a consultation service for the application of mixed methods to research efforts. C-QAMM researchers are also active in the effort to further develop software tools for mixed methods research.

Policy research often requires exploring novel environments and foreign cultural contexts. Mixed methods are ideal for these situations.

Methodologies & Tools

C-QAMM researchers develop and use a wide variety of research designs and consult with members of projects from across RAND. In particular, C-QAMM helps researchers perform:

Semi-structured interviews and focus groups—guided conversations with participants that are both structured and free flowing, allowing investigators to compare and explore topics across individuals and populations.

Cultural domain analyses—systematically collecting data to identify and measure cultural patterns, using such processes as thematic identification of cultural themes and multivariate statistical techniques for empirically testing cultural agreement.

Team-based thematic analyses—group exercises, including iterative codebook development to increase reliability and standardization of code application, to identify key patterns in qualitative data (text, images, video, audio, etc.).

Corpus analysis—the computer-assisted analysis of large collections of purposely collected qualitative data (corpora), which allows for empirical tests of unstructured data sources too large for human analysis and can create new knowledge through statistical tests of the presence and distribution of language.

  • Semi-structured interviews and focus groups
  • Cultural domain analysis
  • Team-based thematic analysis
  • Corpus analysis

Real-World Applications

Street Sense

Photo by Lanie Rivera / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Identifying Intervention Strategies for High-Risk Sexual Behavior Among Homeless Men

The National Institutes of Health asked RAND to help identify intervention strategies that would reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS among high-risk, homeless populations. Previous research had already established that the patterns of sexual behavior in heterosexual homeless men frequently involve multiple, overlapping partnerships.

One prominent theory—the "hypermasculinity" hypothesis—was that men who internalize traditional gender roles that promote sexual dominance over women are more likely to engage in risky sex with women, especially if they feel economically marginalized.

Researchers collected rich, qualitative data through exploratory interviews with homeless men, and performed a cultural consensus analysis focused on gender ideology and beliefs. They also gathered quantitative information from a larger sample of homeless men using structured interviews that asked about individual sexual behaviors, personal networks, and monogamy.

Multiple rounds of such mixed methods analyses suggested that the hypermasculinity hypothesis was too limited to explain the diverse narratives of homeless men's experiences. Instead, analyses illustrated that men maintained hopes and dreams of idealized, committed relationships despite being largely unable to realize these dreams while living on the street.

This research suggests policymakers should consider interventions that factor in gender roles and the structural barriers to enacting these roles. For example, providing partnered residential options in shelters (which often separate the sexes) could encourage monogamy and reduce risky sexual behavior.

Expertise

The RAND Center for Qualitative and Mixed Methods Co-directors

  • Ryan Andrew Brown

    Behavioral and Social Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

    Ryan Andrew Brown is a behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He conducts research on terrorism, access to care among military populations, and risk-taking behaviors among marginalized populations. Brown is an expert in…

  • David P. Kennedy

    Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School

    David Kennedy is a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation and professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He has conducted research on the intersection of culture, social networks and health; and on various mental health topics, including depression, PTSD, and ADHD,…

Work with Us

Interested in learning how to incorporate qualitative research into your work while keeping some quantitative approaches? Fill out the form below and we'll get back to you soon.

You can also contact: c-qamm@rand.org

Methods Centers at RAND