Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsDR VANETTE MCLENNAN: I think it's surprising, can be really surprising, for people who don't have a statistics background to start viewing statistics as a very complementary part of qualitative research as well. So, to me, in a lot of work that I've done, I've started to see the importance of the two aspects, the statistical quantitative component very much complementing the qualitative, and vice versa. So I think one really strengthens the other.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsPROF ANDREA MARSHALL: I guess, depending on the research question that you're asking, you're going to select a particular type of research study design that's going to best answer your questions. So, in terms of quantitative research, if you compare it with qualitative, I'm certainly not going to want somebody to do a qualitative study of how a drug works, for instance. So the quantitative research is really designed, I think in the strength of that, is around trying to eliminate bias in studies to try and understand the true effect of the influence of a drug or device, for example.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 secondsSo you really want those sorts of study designs to be very quite tight, and that's what quantitative research allows you to do on a large scale.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 secondsDR SHARYN RUNDLE-THIELE: I did my PhD with a quantitative study. It taught me how much, or what, it didn't explain why. And a qualitative piece of work allows you to delve into someone's mind to find different connections that no survey I ever design is capable of doing.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 secondsPROF BRIGID GILLESPIE: I use qualitative and quantitative, I have used that in one-- in certain projects to answer different aspects of the question. So, certainly, one of my projects quite recently was using both qualitative and quantitative. We had different questions that we were trying to answer to get an overall view of what we were looking at. We couldn't just do it with one method.

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondsPROF ELIZABETH KENDALL: It's so valuable. Qualitative research gives you a totally different picture. It tells you stories, it tells you experiences, feelings, it goes to a much deeper level than quantitative research. But they need to complement each other, always. There's a lot of debate in research of, are you a qualitative or a quantitative researcher, and I think a good researcher is both and uses both when it's appropriate. So qualitative research can tell you a lot about what needs to be investigated further. It can tell you a lot about findings, quantitative findings. It can explain those findings. It can tell you why they might have happened.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 secondsAnd it can go a little bit deeper to tell you what mechanisms might be driving that finding.

Skip to 3 minutes and 2 secondsDR SHARYN RUNDLE-THIELE: I do a lot of work for governments, whether they be local councils, state, and federal, and I can't go past quantitative research for its ability to deliver information that the decision-makers can actually action from. So, whilst I love qualitative for what it can show me and its ability to help me to put information and get people's language to write back to them with, quantitative actually gives me something that I can take and, if executed with the proper design, I can generalise to a population. And then I can tell some decision-makers with confidence, this is the incidence of this or this is how much it will cost you to actually get that.

Mixed methods

Quantitative and qualitative research should fit together hand in glove.

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches can give you a rich and detailed understanding of a problem.

Qualitative research build a very rich picture, allowing us to identify problems and understand how people experience them. It also captures a lot of things that can be difficult to measure.

Quantitative research can tell us how widespread or persistent these problems are, help us identify their causes and evaluate strategies introduced to solve them.

In research involving people, doing one without the other can be like working with one hand tied behind your back. A combination of methods not only gives you the benefits of both, but also gives you two sets of data you can use to cross-reference and validate your results.

Take research into homelessness as an example.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, US war veterans who live in poverty or come from an ethnic mintority are three times more likely to become homeless than people in the same situation who are not veterans.

Thompson & Bridier (2013) wanted to know how they could empower homeless war veterans to meet their needs and achieve their aspirations for the future.

They used a standardised quantitative survey to discover veteran participants’ demographics, how long they’d been homeless and served in the military, their physical and mental health and the goods and services they said they needed. They used another standardised survey for care providers to describe their services. Finally, they interviewed homeless war veterans about their experiences of life, military service, needs and hopes for the future.

As a result, they were able to identify the most pressing needs for the veterans in greater depth than they could have with ‘measurables’ like housing arrangements, income or physical health. However, without understanding these things, it would not be possible for the researchers to understand how widespread or persistent the effects of homelessness were to the veteran community.

Taking both sources of information into account allowed them to build a very detailed picture of the veterans’ most urgent needs, taking the community’s experiences of homelessness and aspirations for the future into account.

Your task

Thompson & Bridier (2013) were able to list the most pressing needs of homeless veterans. Choose one of these needs and propose a mixed methods study to help us develop a better understanding of the problem.

Describe your designs in the comments section.

Mapping your research design using software such as Padlet may help you to describe your research design. See this project outline for an example. You’ll need to open this link in a new tab or select ‘back’ on your web browser to return to the course. If you choose to design an outline of your study in this way, please remember to leave a link to it in the comments section.

References
Thompson, C. J., & Bridier, N. L. (2013). Homeless aging veterans in transition: a life-span perspective. Journal of aging research.

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This video is from the free online course:

Why Numbers Matter: Quantitative Research

Deakin University