Mixed methods research has significant potential to broaden the scope of emergency care and specifically emergency medical services investigation. Mixed methods studies involve the coordinated use of qualitative and quantitative research approaches to gain a fuller understanding of practice. By combining what is learnt from multiple methods, these approaches can help to characterise complex healthcare systems, identify the mechanisms of complex problems such as medical errors and understand aspects of human interaction such as communication, behaviour and team performance. Mixed methods approaches may be particularly useful for out-of-hospital care researchers because care is provided in complex systems where equipment, interpersonal interactions, societal norms, environment and other factors influence patient outcomes. The overall objectives of this paper are to (1) introduce the fundamental concepts and approaches of mixed methods research and (2) describe the interrelation and complementary features of the quantitative and qualitative components of mixed methods studies using specific examples from the Children's Safety Initiative-Emergency Medical Services (CSI-EMS), a large National Institutes of Health-funded research project conducted in the USA.