Hybrid Research: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods and More

two cogs turning together

Research has long since evolved beyond the tried-and-true method of conducting an exploratory qualitative research phase followed by a quantitative phase. Digital research methods have allowed for the expansion of new and creative means of market research. With that said, hybrid research (sometimes referred to as mixed-method, bricolage, or triangulation) is not new. But some still forget to take full advantage of what hybrid research has to offer.

As we know, many methods of research are designed to answer specific questions. This is normally necessary in order to get results that are specific and actionable. However, sometimes combining methods or conducting research iteratively is a better option. And foregoing the opportunity completely could mean missing out on an easy approach to all-encompassing, collaborative insights.

What Is Hybrid Research?

You can likely take a guess at the definition behind hybrid research. When the term first emerged, most research experts defined it as a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Now it is more evolved than that. Hybrid research can be a combination of two or more research methodologies—regardless of whether it’s qualitative plus quantitative. Further, it can be conducted in a series (iteratively) or in parallel (at the same time).

The motivation for using hybrid research is to establish a better understanding of results. For example, quantitative research can define “what” and qualitative research can provide the “why.” Nowadays, hybrid research can expand beyond just qualitative and quantitative combinations, such as in-person plus digital methods, or customer reviews plus quantitative research. The benefits of hybrid research include

  • Relatable insights that can be tied from one question or phase of research to the next
  • Timely and cost-effective results—especially if the combination of methods is being conducted concurrently
  • A more engaging and impactful story, as more data sources are used to supplement answers with meaning (i.e., through a layering of experiences or consumer understanding)

The Research Design

To start designing a hybrid research study, you first have to define all objectives related to the business need. A use-case could start with the need to prioritize and develop a concept for new product development. From there, you’d then have to assess the objectives by research method, such as prioritizing concepts through a quantitative phase and refining it further in a qualitative phase. Lastly, determine the order or type of execution of the research. In other words, should both phases be executed together, or one before the other? Then, identify if you want to refine all concepts before prioritization or prioritize and refine only the winning concept.

Before fully designing and implementing a hybrid research design, keep in mind these best practices:

  • Objectives should start at a high-level before determining what answers you should get from each phase of research
  • Avoid conducting both methods of research with different vendors, as methodologies can vary and impact results
  • Keep audience types consistent so insights can be translated across both phases
  • Remember, hybrid research doesn’t have to be conducted at the same time or immediately following a previous phase; sometimes it’s just about the ability to apply it in an iterative approach

We incorporate several different options for hybrid research, from combining our Exploratory Research Group™ with an Agile A&U™ to a concept or creative test followed by a refiner. Our next steps for hybrid research also include combining big data with survey data. But to learn more about how we approach hybrid research when it comes to qualitative and quantitative techniques, download the eGuide below. You’ll learn more about when and why qualitative and quantitative methods should be used together.

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