Aim To outline the traditional worldviews of healthcare research and discuss the benefits and challenges of using mixed methods approaches in contributing to the development of nursing and midwifery knowledge.
Background There has been much debate about the contribution of mixed methods research to nursing and midwifery knowledge in recent years.
Data sources A sequential exploratory design is used as an exemplar of a mixed methods approach. The study discussed used a combination of focus-group interviews and a quantitative instrument to obtain a fuller understanding of women’s experiences of childbirth.
Review methods In the mixed methods study example, qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis and quantitative data using regression analysis.
Discussion Polarised debates about the veracity, philosophical integrity and motivation for conducting mixed methods research have largely abated. A mixed methods approach can contribute to a deeper, more contextual understanding of a variety of subjects and experiences; as a result, it furthers knowledge that can be used in clinical practice.
Conclusion The purpose of the research study should be the main instigator when choosing from an array of mixed methods research designs. Mixed methods research offers a variety of models that can augment investigative capabilities and provide richer data than can a discrete method alone.
Implications for practice/research This paper offers an example of an exploratory, sequential approach to investigating women’s childbirth experiences. A clear framework for the conduct and integration of the different phases of the mixed methods research process is provided. This approach can be used by practitioners and policy makers to improve practice.