Purpose and contribution

The aim of this commentary is to add to the discussion about the ways that mixed methods can be used to develop or refine a theoretical construct or explanatory framework. Its’ purpose is to explore ways that the integration of qualitative and quantitative data and/or methods can advance the rigour, analytical density, and originality of research about sustainability in management. It extracts information about the type of integrative procedures or techniques that have been used to extend inferential validity or analytical density from examples of research in business and management. It further develops the argument for the value-added of mixed methods to analytical density by comparing two critical case exemplars reporting on a mixed method project with an iterative phase, with a contrasting case that deployed a sequential explanatory design with a secondary qualitative phase.

The description of each critical case serves several purposes. The first, is to inspire fewer mechanical uses of mixed methods. The second is to inspire the reader to consider ways that one or more of the integrative strategies could be adapted to advance the originality of their own research. The third may be to offer references to primary source material that can be used to bolster the legitimacy of the use of a procedure.

The commentary is linked to discussions about research quality because it illustrates approaches to integration that have been used to extend the strength of inferences and conceptual frameworks. It extends the idea of dialogic mixing (Creamer and Edwards, 2019). Dialogic forms of mixing reflect a methodological commitment to deliberately and thoughtfully interrogate gaps, inconsistencies, and counterintuitive findings between different sources of data, particularly during data analysis. It adds consideration to the use of mixed methods to extend or elaborate existing theory to what I have written elsewhere about the ways it can be teamed with grounded theory to advance theory development (Creamer, 2018b, Creamer, in progress). It also adds to Gibson (2017) by expanding ideas about the implications of an iterative component during analysis in a mixed methods study. This includes highlighting the analytical gains achieved by engaging unexpected and sometimes contradictory findings.

Table 10.1 (see p. 181) provides definition of key terms used in the chapter.

The author's perspective about mixed methods

The methodological orientation I take to mixed methods is a pluralistic one. It is informed by immersion in a wide body of methodological literature, but more so by long engagement in the real world of practice. Like Bryman (2008), I experienced a gap between what is actually described in articles using mixed methods and the abstract world of textbooks. For my purposes, mixed method articles are the data I analyse. Each article is like a case or an experiment (Eisenhardt, 1989). My perspective is not an abstract one. It has been shaped and continues to evolve by ideas emerging from reading a constant stream of new articles.

The philosophical perspective I take in this methodological commentary is one that resonates with emphasis on a dialectical approach reflected in

Extending the value-added 181 Table 10.1 Key mixed method terminology related to research design and definitions




An analytical logic that moves back and forth between an exploratory and confirmatory stance in a way that allows for alternative hypotheses to be generated and tested.

Analytic density

Associated with validity, analytic density refers to envisioning constructs in a multi-dimensional way or to developing or elaborating theory in a way that adds to its conceptual nuance or richness.


Associated with Greene's (2007) 'mixed method way of thinking', a dialectic stance reflects a commitment to engage diverse perspectives.

Dialogic mixing

Dialogic forms of mixing reflect a methodological commitment to deliberately and thoughtfully interrogate gaps, inconsistencies, and counterintuitive findings between different sources of data, particularly during analysis (Creamer and Edwards, 2019).


A type of integration when data collection and analysis link at multiple points (Fetters et al., 2013).

Hybrid design

A hybrid design is an advanced mixed method design that contains both sequential and concurrent phases (Schoonenboom and Johnson, 2017).


An iterative design includes phases where there is on-going interaction between different sources of data and analytical procedures. It involves a cyclical process with repeated loops as insight from one leads to further exploration in the other.

Integrated visual display

A figure or table that integrates data from different sources in ways that enhance conceptual insight.

the ‘mixed method way’ of thinking first described by Jennifer Greene in 2007. My principal interest has continued to be approaches to mixed methods that support opportunities for meaningful interaction between qualitative and quantitative approaches during analysis (Creamer, 2018).

Pre-occupation with integration, rather than to design, makes the longstanding practice of categorising examples by a core set of mixed methods designs as the organisational framework less effective than it is in other contexts. There are other implications of my continuing fascination with uncovering examples with unusual strategies for integration. One of it is the tendency to uncover examples where there is an on-going, iterative back and forth between the qualitative and quantitative phases that extends across phases.

The main body of the paper sets out to identify examples of procedures that integrate qualitative and quantitative methods during analysis for purposes of enhancing analytic density. It seeks first to demonstrate that there is a wide range of analytical procedures that can be employed by providing an overview of a cluster of examples of articles in business and management. The section that follows delves more deeply into the topic by exploring the analytical procedures used in two critical case exemplars. Following that, there is a section that considers a contrasting case example that is explicitly related to sustainability. The principal purpose of the critical case to draw out the contrast between mixed method approaches that use an iterative design and those that use a more conventional design that postpones integration until the final step where conclusions are drawn. The chapter closes by exploring the implications of an iterative approach to mixed method research.

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