What Really Drives the Research Design?

Kwok, Linchi (In press). “Exploratory-triangulation design in mixed methods studies:  A case of examining graduating seniors who meet hospitality recruiters’ selection criteria.” Tourism and Hospitality Research.

Qualitative vs. quantitative: which method is better? If they are equally valuable in social science, will the mixed methods approach (employing both qualitative and quantitative techniques) prove to be superior to a single method approach?

There is an on-going discussion surrounding the use of qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods in research studies. The biggest strength of the qualitative approach lies in its ability to yield descriptive, in-depth, and insightful data. As a result, frequency counts and numbers do not appear to be important in a qualitative study. Quantitative researchers, however, must rely on numbers to Untitleddraw conclusions. Mixed methods researchers suggest that research approaches should be mixed in the ways that offer the best opportunity to answer complex research questions.

While I agree there are many advantages of utilizing mixed methods in tourism and hospitality research, I argue that scholars should forget their research paradigms and allow the research question(s) to drive their research design. When designing a mixed methods study, researchers should think “outside the box” and be creative in collaborating qualitative and quantitative methods in different stages of the research process.

In this article, I introduce the exploratory-triangulation mixed methods approach to hospitality and tourism research by illustrating a specific empirical example of using such a design to answer tthrhree different but complementary questions on the same topic. Using the exploratory-triangulation mixed methods approach, hospitality recruiters’ selection criteria for entry-level managerial positions in college recruiting settings were explored and triangulated with the attributes of hospitality graduating seniors who receive job offers. It appears the exploratory-triangulation mixed methods approach allows researchers to examine a complex issue with different perspectives and thus provides a broader and a more complete picture of a phenomenon. The conclusions drawn from this exploratory-triangulation mixed method investigation also yielded stronger conclusions as compared to the qualitative or the quantitative results when reported separately.

I hoplinchi-kwok-2011_21e this paper will encourage more researchers to consider adopting the mixed methods approach in future studies and open up a discussion of using a variety of mixed methods designs in research. Researchers need not follow a typical research design. Rather, they need to be creative and let the research question(s) drive the research design.

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Click here to read the paper in Tourism and Hospitality Research.

Linchi Kwok is an assistant professor of Hospitality Management in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University and a contributor to Management INK.

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