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Research methods

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In this section you will explore different approaches to research and see how they are applied to the emergency management sector.

There are three broad approaches to research: quantitative, qualitative and mixed method. These approaches are not distinct but represent different ends on a continuum, with mixed methods residing in the middle (Newman and Benz 1998 and Creswell 2011).

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is an approach that tests objective theories through the examination of measurable variables. These variables are measured with instruments that collect and analyse data statistically. Quantitative research methods use the ‘scientific method’, initial analysis of a topic produces defined questions, these questions can then be answered using an inductive approach, or can be used to formulate hypotheses to be tested using a deductive approach.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research investigates a topic in a more exploratory fashion without the constraints imposed by the rigid quantitative approach. The aim of the qualitative approach is to gain an understanding of underlying reasons and motivations, developing new theories during the exploratory exercise. In this type of research, data can be analysed and interpreted to find meanings in complex situations.

Mixed methods

The mixed methods research approach involves collecting data both qualitatively and quantitatively. This combines the strength of the philosophical assumptions and theoretical framework of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to provide a rich understanding of a research problem.

Your task

You have begun to imagine a potential research question. Which research method do you think best suits your question and why?


Newman, I. Benz, C. R. (1998) Qualitative-Quantitative Research Methodology: Exploring the Interactive Continuum. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press

Creswell, J. W. (2011) ‘Controversies in Mixed Methods Research’. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. ed. by Denzin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S. 4th edn. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 269-284

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This article is from the free online course:

Researching Risk, Disasters and Emergencies

Coventry University