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Importance of Mixed Methods in Pragmatic Trials and Dissemination and Implementation Research

      Abstract

      With increased attention to the importance of translating research to clinical practice and policy, recent years have seen a proliferation of particular types of research, including pragmatic trials and dissemination and implementation research. Such research seeks to understand how and why interventions function in real-world settings, as opposed to highly controlled settings involving conditions not likely to be repeated outside the research study. Because understanding the context in which interventions are implemented is imperative for effective pragmatic trials and dissemination and implementation research, the use of mixed methods is critical to understanding trial results and the success or failure of implementation efforts. This article discusses a number of dimensions of mixed methods research, utilizing at least one qualitative method and at least one quantitative method, that may be helpful when designing projects or preparing grant proposals. Although the strengths and emphases of qualitative and quantitative approaches differ substantially, methods may be combined in a variety of ways to achieve a deeper level of understanding than can be achieved by one method alone. However, researchers must understand when and how to integrate the data as well as the appropriate order, priority, and purpose of each method. The ability to demonstrate an understanding of the rationale for and benefits of mixed methods research is increasingly important in today's competitive funding environment, and many funding agencies now expect applicants to include mixed methods in proposals. The increasing demand for mixed methods research necessitates broader methodological training and deepened collaboration between medical, clinical, and social scientists. Although a number of challenges to conducting and disseminating mixed methods research remain, the potential for insight generated by such work is substantial.

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