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Mixed Methods for Policy Research and Program Evaluation

Mixed Methods for Policy Research and Program Evaluation

  • Patricia Burch - University of Southern California, USA
  • Carolyn J. Heinrich - Vanderbilt University, USA, University of Texas, Austin, USA, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

April 2015 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

This practical text equips students, researchers, and policymakers in the social sciences with the tools they need for applying mixed methods in policy research and program evaluation, from design, through data collection, and dissemination. Emphasizing the “how-to”—the set of conceptual and active tasks carried out by mixed methods researchers—the book is illustrated with rich case studies from the authors’ own research projects in education and public policy. These examples help readers identify and explain policy and program impacts and better understand the “why” and “how” of observed effects. Throughout the book, the authors describe challenges that both beginners and advanced scholars are likely to encounter when doing mixed methods research and recommend practical tools available to address them.

Chapter 1: Introduction: The Demand for and Value of Fully Integrated Qualitative and Quantitative Research
The Role of Mixed Methods Research in Meeting the Demand for Evidenced-Based Policy and Practice

What Distinguishes This Book in the Mixed Methods Literature

Overview of Remaining Chapters

Recommendations for How to Use This Book

Chapter 2: Conceptualizing Mixed Methods Research

Rationale and Conditions for Mixed Methods Research

Categorizing Mixed Methods Approaches

Overview of a Fully Integrated, Mixed Methods Research Effort

Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 3: Designing and Implementing Fully Integrated Mixed Methods Research

Integration in Research Objectives and Design

Integration in Instrumentation Design and Data Collection

Integration in Data Analysis and Interpretation of Findings

Integration in Dissemination of Research Findings

Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 4: Practical Tools for Integrated Mixed Methods Studies of Policy Implementation

Mixed Methods Integration Strategy #1: Bridging Research Instruments for Qualitative and Quantitative Integration

Mixed Methods Integration Strategy #2: Mixed Methods Coding and Analysis Memoing

Mixed Methods Integration Strategy #3: Adapted Monitoring Tool and Research Reviews

Mixed Methods Integration Strategy #4: Research-to-Practice Collaborative


Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 5: Fully Integrated Mixed Methods Research in K-12 and Higher Education in the United States

Program Evaluation of Student Achievement Guarantee in Education

Racial and Ethnic Inequity in Access and Successful Student Outcomes in Higher Education

Challenges and Strategies for Addressing Challenges

Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 6: An Application of Fully Integrated Mixed Methods in Program Development and Evaluation

Program and Evaluation Motivation

Pilot Program Development for Child Support Debt Reduction

Demonstration Program Rollout and Early Evaluation Focus

Impact Evaluation Findings and Their Interpretation and Use


Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 7: Mixed Methods Research in an International Context

Child Support Grant Impact Evaluation in South Africa

Qualitative-Quantitative Integration Process in the CSG Impact Evaluation

Benefits of a Tightly Integrated Qualitative-Quantitative Research Approach


Discussion Questions

Applications to Your Own Work

Chapter 8: On the Future of Fully Integrated Mixed Methods Research: Context and Common Lessons From the Cases for the Field
How Context Matters

Broader Lessons for the Field

Concluding Thoughts


Drawing on their extensive experience in large scale project management, Patricia Burch and Carolyn Heinrich clearly articulate an agenda for program and policy evaluation that is designed to ensure actionable evidence of the effectiveness of a program and its implementation is generated for all stakeholders. The examples they provide, while not minimizing the challenges of employing a mixed methods approach, will convince readers of the practicality and value of iteratively integrating both qualitative and quantitative approaches throughout the entire evaluation process, from initial design through data integration and analysis to dissemination of research findings. We can all learn from their experiences, so generously shared.

Patricia Bazeley
Research Support Pty Limited, Australia

In a time of scarce resources for social programs, wise policy requires making tough choices. To do this well, policymakers need reliable information on what works, why some approaches are more successful than others, and what can be done to improve effectiveness. This book is a vital primer on how to do that. It attacks the mistaken view that quantitative and qualitative research are alternatives, rather than essential complements that, when combined in a mix of research methods, can best provide guidance to policymakers and practitioners.

Judith M. Gueron
Scholar in Residence - President Emerita, MDRC

This book is just what is needed as we move into a new phase of evidence informed policy and practice.  It advocates an integrated and coherent approach to policy research and program evaluation while recognizing the realities and complexities of both policy and research. It will be immensely helpful to those engaged in mixed methods research across a variety of policy fields.

Geoff Whitty
Director Emeritus of the London Institute of Education, Research Professor at Bath Spa University, UK and Global Innovation Chair at the University of Newcastle, Australia

The gulf between qualitative and quantitative researchers is an old problem. With this useful and important new book, Burch and Heinrich help to bridge the divide, highlighting the need for a more complementary and integrated approach that can help us learn not just whether programs "work", but how and why they do.

Douglas N. Harris
Tulane University, and Director, Education Research Alliance for New Orleans

This rich and sophisticated book provides a wealth of insights and practical guidelines that will enhance the work of both novice and experienced researchers. Burch and Heinrich show the way to making mixed methods research more relevant and more rigorous.

Thomas Hatch
Teachers College Columbia University, and Co-Director, National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST)

This is a very useful book for researchers and evaluators contemplating or already using mixed methods in policy research and evaluation, as well as for those teaching applied evaluation courses.

Diane Hirshberg
University of Alaska Anchorage

In this book, Burch and Heinrich have successfully explained how a mixed methods approach can be applied to policy analysis and evaluation.  I highly recommend it for scholars applying mixed methods to the study of public policy issues.  This book should be required reading for all public policy students and researchers.

Elizabeth A. Corley
Arizona State University

The book’s biggest strength is its emphasis on the practicalities of integrating different methods throughout the life cycle of a research project. For example, all the chapters end with discussion questions, which force the reader to think through and better understand how the material presented might apply to their own work. The book is also illustrated with rich case studies (mostly from the education and social welfare arenas) to aid understanding.

James Canton, social and behavioural research, Department for Transport
SRA Research Matters

This book provides a great foundation for my Intro to Program Evaluation course.

Dr Kristina Nell LaVenia
Educational Foundations, Ldership and Policy, Bowling Green State University
April 13, 2021

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

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