Objective: Despite increased calls for use of mixed-methods designs in mental health services research, how and why such methods are being used and whether there are any consistent patterns that might indicate a consensus about how such methods can and should be used are unclear.
Methods: Use of mixed methods was examined in 50 peer-reviewed journal articles found by searching PubMed Central and 60 National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded projects found by searching the CRISP database over five years (2005-2009). Studies were coded for aims and the rationale, structure, function, and process for using mixed methods.
Results: A notable increase was observed in articles published and grants funded over the study period. However, most did not provide an explicit rationale for using mixed methods, and 74% gave priority to use of quantitative methods. Mixed methods were used to accomplish five distinct types of study aims (assess needs for services, examine existing services, develop new or adapt existing services, evaluate services in randomized controlled trials, and examine service implementation), with three categories of rationale, seven structural arrangements based on timing and weighting of methods, five functions of mixed methods, and three ways of linking quantitative and qualitative data. Each study aim was associated with a specific pattern of use of mixed methods, and four common patterns were identified.
Conclusions: These studies offer guidance for continued progress in integrating qualitative and quantitative methods in mental health services research consistent with efforts by NIH and other funding agencies to promote their use.