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Exploring the use of mixed methods in research and evaluation of widening participation interventions: guidance for practitioners

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Globally, the need for evidence to guide widening participation (WP) practices aimed at reducing inequalities in higher education (HE) participation is recognised more than ever before. In addition, whilst it is also increasingly accepted that approaches drawing on the strengths of both quantitative and qualitative methods (mixed methods) are necessary to develop a more robust evidence base, their use is still not common practice. Given that there is limited guidance on how to combine divergent methods in the field, this may be impeding practitioners and researchers in using mixed methods approaches in WP research. This paper provides such guidance, describing the challenges and benefits of combining qualitative and quantitative methods within a single research design and discusses these issues in relation to epistemological approach, study design frameworks, methods of data collection, analytical approaches and issues of validity and reliability. We also present a mixed methods WP study to illustrate one approach that can be used to address these methodological issues. In doing so, we present new guidance and a framework that WP practitioners and researchers can use for conducting and integrating mixed methods studies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2018

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  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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