How Mixed-Methods Research Can Improve the Policy Relevance of Impact Evaluations

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Evaluation review




external validity; impact evaluation; methodological development; mixed methods; program evaluation; qualitative evaluation; transferability


This paper describes how mixed methods can improve the value and policy relevance of impact evaluations, paying particular attention to how mixed methods can be used to address external validity and generalization issues. We briefly review the literature on the rationales for using mixed methods; provide documentation of the extent to which mixed methods have been used in impact evaluations in recent years; describe how we developed a list of recent impact evaluations using mixed methods and the process used to conduct full-text reviews of these articles; summarize the findings from our analysis of the articles; discuss three exemplars of using mixed methods in impact evaluations; and discuss how mixed methods have been used for studying and improving external validity and potential improvements that could be made in this area. We find that mixed methods are rarely used in impact evaluations, and we believe that increased use of mixed methods would be useful because they can reinforce findings from the quantitative analysis (triangulation), and they can also help us understand the mechanism by which programs have their impacts and the reasons why programs fail.


Health Policy and Management