Imagine a world without numbers
Although this may sound a little absurd at first, some tribal cultures (eg the Amazonian Pirahã) count using only a few words, equivalent to ‘one’, ‘two’ and ‘many’, quite happily. Of course, the earliest humans had to create the whole concept of numbers.
However, in most modern, urban societies, at least, it is likely that we would struggle to manage without any means of accurate, consistent ways of counting and measuring the things around us.
Consider, for example, what the impact for you would be, with regard to the following:
- Time-keeping. How would you organise holidays or meetings with friends and family? How would you make sure you remembered appointments and anniversaries? What about the impact on your working day and week, especially if you work shifts?
- Your home. How accurately would your walls, roof, etc, fit together? What would be the impact for you, when trying to decorate or furnish your home?
- Cooking (especially for groups of people, or when wanting to try out a new recipe).
As the exercise above demonstrates, all research, even qualitative research, will use numbers and many forms of measurement to some extent to answer their research question.
In particular, quantitative research designs are useful for:
- describing the key characteristics of a diagnostic group, activity, etc, in a consistent manner
- evaluating the effectiveness or impact of an intervention, accurately, objectively and without bias
- detecting possible links between two or more factors (eg a lifestyle behaviour and a specific medical outcome)
- ensuring that the results of an investigation can be generalised
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