Samples Research Conducting Qualitative Research: Mixed Methods

Conducting Qualitative Research: Mixed Methods

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For their research into the phenomenon that more women than men were joining the counseling profession as well as the perceived impact that this phenomenon has, Michel et al. (2013) conducted a mixed methods study which surveyed both counselor educators’ and counseling graduate students’ perceptions of the presence (or lack thereof) of men in the profession as well as the recruitment of men to and within the profession. Sample one represented the graduate students (n = 10) while sample two represented the counselor educators (n = 217), samples which were obtained using a “purposeful, sequential, multilevel sampling method” (Michel et al., 2013, p. 476). Demographics for the students, beyond being male, were not recorded to preserve anonymity. Demographics for the educators included “gender, race/ethnicity, age, current academic rank, counseling programs, degree types offered in their department, and whether their program was CACREP-accredited” (Michel et al., 2013, p. 476).

The authors used a triangulation design in order to incorporate both quantitative and qualitative elements in the study which they assert “increase[s] the breadth of inquiry” (Michel et al., 2013, p. 475). The authors employed a phenomenological methodology for data collection; data was acquired through “individual interviews using a semistructured interview protocol derived from the literature” which elicited the participants’ experiences and perceptions; these were audio-recorded with durations from 15 minutes to 35 minutes and were subsequently transcribed for analysis which was conducted using phenomenological data analysis (Michel et al., 2013, p. 476). The authors also employed the Male Recruitment Survey-Counselor Version (MRS-C) which they then tweaked for their needs. The MRS-C employs both scaled and open-ended questions.

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The authors report that the Cronbach’s alpha for the scaled questions (contained in sections A and B) was .89; section C contained the open-ended questions. Descriptive statistics and percentages were generated from the scaled questions, while the phenomenological data analysis method was used for the open-ended questions. The findings revealed that the gender gap within the profession may lead men to feel that they don’t have a voice or place in the field, as well as later affecting client options or preferences in the clinical context, and contributes to perceptions of the counseling profession (Michel et al., 2013). Counseling educators revealed the desire to recruit more men but resistance to the idea of gender-based recruitment efforts. Implications for practice include focusing on fostering diversity in the field and to create an inclusive environment for graduate student culture. Counseling educators must play a role in fostering these concepts.

In reviewing this study, its focus, and the approach the authors took to studying the phenomenon, a mixed methods approach seems to offer them an excellent way of both documenting the phenomenon objectively and recording its impact from subjective points of view which offers another angle on the phenomenon. Strengths-wise, the mixed methods approach facilitates both purposes. It allows the authors a means of acquiring, analyzing, and presenting the data in an integrated fashion which provides researchers with a more detailed picture of a phenomenon and its impact. In other words, “researchers no longer need to choose between understanding [the] depth of human experience and generalizability, for mixed methods has the advantage of being able to account for both narratives and standardized data” (Gambrel & Butler, 2013, p. 163).

It also reflects calls from within the profession for “increased methodological pluralism and rigor in the field of counseling” (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2011, p. 169) which generates more reliable data with more significant validity, a notion echoed by Gambrel and Butler (2013). Some scholars insist that mixed methods represents “research methods that are applicable to many aspects of human experience and are at the same time accessible to diverse professionals,” which has the potential to “help close the gap between clinicians and researchers that has grown” in the profession (Gambrel & Butler, 2013, p. 163).
The data generated by the Michel et al. (2013) study reflects the kind of data which would be accessible and useful to diverse professionals and has the potential to close the gap between clinicians and researchers, as well as fostering budding professionals.

In terms of limitations of the design, the authors identify a few themselves which are significant. The MRS-C requires “additional psychometric validation” (Michel et al., 2013, p. 481) – this weakness in its validity has the potential to undermine the quantitative data and that aspect of the study which, in turn, has the potential to weaken the qualitative aspects. The qualitative aspects of the study were limited and represented singular interviews without follow-up for clarifications (Michel et al., 2013). This limits the value of the qualitative data and its generalizability. This is complicated by the sample size of the student group, as well as the fact that it was generated from one institution only, while the educator group was drawn from several institutions. The authors’ use of the sampling method for qualitative research seems inadequate which suggests that they perhaps are not as familiar with qualitative research. This echoes the argument within the profession for more actively utilizing (and teaching) qualitative methods, rather than giving such weight to quantitative methods which cannot always represent lived human experiences. This should also create more support for the teaching of the mixed methods approach and how such an approach can be used effectively, since the authors’ use of the approach seems unbalanced.

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