Monday, 19 February 2018

Qualitative research comes of age

For a long, long time, qualitative research has felt like a "poor relation" to quantitative: so much more subjective, so much harder to generalise, so much more reliant on the skills of the researcher to deliver quality.

I'm delighted to see that it's becoming more mainstream - at least based on the evidence of a couple of recent publications that appear in the mainstream research literature and that simply report on how to report qualitative research well. One is in the medical literature, and the other in the psychology literature. The questions of what constitutes high quality qualitative research, and how to report it are ones we have grappled with, particularly when the findings of a study don't align well with the original aims because you discover that those aims were based on incorrect assumptions about the situation. I still get the sense that there is asymmetry in the situation: that qualitative researchers have to justify their methods to quantitative researchers much more forcefully than the converse. But this seems like progress nevertheless.

Quantitative tells you about outcomes, but gives little (or no) insight into causes or processes. To improve outcomes, you really need to understand causes too...

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