The wider benefits of adult learning: an illustration of the advantages of multi-method research

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2005


This paper examines the advantages of combining quantitative and qualitative findings concerning the wider benefits of adult learning. The research issue is a broad one that was under‐researched when the projects were conducted. Quantitative and qualitative projects addressed different facets of this issue. Mostly, they were designed and conducted separately, and combined only at the stage of interpreting findings. We therefore refer to the project as multi rather than mixed method research. The advantages of combining methods in this research fall into the five categories presented as purposes of mixed methods research by Greene, Caracelli, and Graham (1989): initiation, triangulation, complementarity, development and expansion. I suggest that initiation, which refers to the new perspectives that are developed when researchers attempt to combine apparently contradictory quantitative and qualitative findings, is conceptually distinct from the other advantages. Unlike the other four advantages, it is not associated with particular and concrete outcomes, such as additional evidence for validity (triangulation), developing a fuller picture of the research issue (complementarity) or expanding the scope of the research (expansion), its design and implementation (development). Rather, initiation is a process through which the reconciliation of apparently contradictory findings leads to triangulation, complementarity, development and expansion. The ease with which findings from different methods are reconciled is a dimension that applies to multi‐method research, which is highlighted by initiation. It bears on the creativity and innovation associated with triangulation, complementarity, development and expansion.

Published in

International Journal of Social Research Methodology

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 8 , p.239 -255





serial sequence - indexed article

Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest