Within mixed methods literature, the relationship between qualitative and quantitative data collection is ubiquitously presented as sequential. Thus, the most followed approach is for the first stage of data collection to follow the second, or to run parallel (Creswell et al., 2003). This sequential relationship has become so deeply entrenched in the mixed methods research paradigm that is the most widely taught approach to mixed method data collection on undergraduate and postgraduate research method modules. Our paper draws on our experience of analysing apprentice pay for two projects funded by the Low Pay Commission. In contrast to the more commonly used sequential research designs, our data followed a cyclical pattern – quantitative, qualitative then quantitative again. This more atypical pattern is particularly of interest as it was driven by the findings themselves. As our quantitative data yielded questions for the qualitative research to investigate, our qualitative research opened new avenues to be explored which required returning to original the statistical dataset –the Apprentice Pay Survey. The clear policy implications, and the resulting actions by policymakers, also encouraged a second-round qualitative investigation to evaluate impact. This paper contributes to debates around mixed methodologies. The richness of data generated by this cyclical approach enabled clearer presentation of the findings – the qualitative data provided a narrative arc to balance the dry quantitative evidence. Are qualitative and quantitative perspectives confirmatory or complementarity or both? And to what extent should we be supporting upcoming generations of mixed method researchers to take a more flexible approach to research design? Associated with Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, owls became a fixture in the dissemination of our findings in academic and non-academic forums throughout the project. Consequently, the owl became a memorable reminder of us as a research team and merits an honourable mention in our paper.
Drew, H., & Ritchie, F. (2021, June). Sequential mixed methods research: Non-compliance in apprentice pay with owls. Paper presented at 20th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies, University of Aveiro, Portugal