Dr. John W. Creswell Featured

Published in Living Legend  

Dr. John W. Creswell

World-Renowned Mixed Methods Research Pioneer

Research Trailblazer Blazing New Trails in Japan

Over the decades, the United States and Japan have exchanged many significant gifts. An iconic example is the cherry blossom trees from Japan that circle the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. America’s latest gift to Japan is its leading academic and author known for his work in mixed methods research, Dr. John W. Creswell. Dividing his time between Japan and Honolulu, Hawaii, Creswell is one of the most prolific authors and leading authorities on mixed methods research design, an approach to research that combines both quantitative and qualitative methods. He is a former president of the Mixed Methods International Research Association (MMIRA) and was a Senior Fulbright Scholar to South Africa and Thailand. Creswell developed best practices for mixed methods research in the health sciences for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2011 and co-founded SAGE Publishing’s Journal of Mixed Methods Research. A professor, researcher, and academic with a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, Creswell has authored many articles and 31 books. His books have been translated into numerous languages and are used by academics around the world. Creswell started his career in 1971 as a research assistant at the University of Iowa. Since then, he has held the Clifton Endowed Professor Chair at the University of Nebraska and served as director of the Mixed Methods Research Office. He has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and is currently Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Family Medicine; Co-Director of the Michigan Mixed Methods Research and Scholarship program at the University of Michigan; and Adjunct Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is also a member of the Global Council, an academic think tank made up of world-renowned researchers and documentary filmmakers who combine their strengths to impact the world. Tokyo Journal Editor-in-Chief Anthony Al-Jamie spoke with John W. Creswell about his career, expertise in research, and experience living in Japan.

TJ: How did you first get started in the field of research?
When I was going through my doctoral program at the University of Iowa, I specialized in a leadership program centered around education. However, I was also taking quite a few research methods courses. At Iowa, quantitative research, statistics, and measurement are very popular. I became interested in research and thought about how I could spend more time during my career not in a leadership role but more in a research methodology role, where I could be a research specialist.

TJ: How did your career progress from there?
By the mid-80s, I was asked by Oklahoma State University to teach a course on qualitative research. Th ere I began to teach in the qualitative methodology, which is similar to the research that anthropologists often do. Th ey go out, observe, and talk to people. So, I was able to add qualitative work to my existing quantitative background. While I was teaching a class on doctoral dissertations for graduate students in Nebraska, it dawned on me: why do we keep the two separate? Why don’t we put them together in one approach? During the period from around 1985 to 1990, there were about nine people around the world that all came to the same conclusion that quantitative and qualitative approaches should come together. Th ese people, including myself, were in different fields and different countries. However, we eventually started to put together a new methodology called mixed methods research, where the two approaches are combined. When you do a project, you can do a survey and get good statistical data about a population while also gaining qualitative information by interviewing people. Using the two approaches together allows you to get additional information that can be useful for understanding your problem.

TJ: Do you have a preferred design methodology?
Th ere are two approaches that I think are extremely popular, and they are reflected in the types of projects that our core group is currently going through. One project involves doing an intervention trial or an experiment while bringing qualitative data into it. Doing an experiment can get you important statistical results, but we don’t really know why the treatment worked, so we follow up by gathering qualitative data. Th is is a popular method many people use, which is similar to our current training cohorts at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Michigan. The second approach is called community-based participatory action research, or CBPR, and involves community members in helping to do your research. You might establish a community board that helps you come up with the right research questions or make an interpretation of the results. Now, when it comes to the social sciences, a popular approach is explanatory sequential, where you start with quantitative data. You’ll do a survey and come up with results, which are sometimes surprising, confusing, or need to be expanded upon. So, let’s have a second phase, where qualitative data is gathered to help explain the survey results. This is really popular among graduate students and individuals in fi elds that have a strong quantitative orientation but are coming into mixed methods.


The complete article can be found in Issue #281 of the Tokyo Journal.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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