Mixed methods research is increasingly being promoted in the health sciences as a way to gain more comprehensive understandings of how social processes and individual behaviours shape human health. Mixed methods research most commonly combines qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis strategies. Often, integrating findings from multiple methods is assumed to confirm or validate the findings from one method with the findings from another, seeking convergence or agreement between methods. Cases in which findings from different methods are congruous are generally thought of as ideal, whilst conflicting findings may, at first glance, appear problematic. However, the latter situation provides the opportunity for a process through which apparently discordant results are reconciled, potentially leading to new emergent understandings of complex social phenomena. This paper presents three case studies drawn from the authors' research on HIV risk amongst injection drug users in which mixed methods studies yielded apparently discrepant results. We use these case studies (involving injection drug users [IDUs] using a Needle/Syringe Exchange Program in Los Angeles, CA, USA; IDUs seeking to purchase needle/syringes at pharmacies in Tijuana, Mexico; and young street-based IDUs in San Francisco, CA, USA) to identify challenges associated with integrating findings from mixed methods projects, summarize lessons learned, and make recommendations for how to more successfully anticipate and manage the integration of findings. Despite the challenges inherent in reconciling apparently conflicting findings from qualitative and quantitative approaches, in keeping with others who have argued in favour of integrating mixed methods findings, we contend that such an undertaking has the potential to yield benefits that emerge only through the struggle to reconcile discrepant results and may provide a sum that is greater than the individual qualitative and quantitative parts.
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