In social research there are two different types of data: quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data is best described as information about quantities; that is, information that can be written down in numbers gained from the public via surveys or questionnaires. Qualitative data, on the other hand, is information about qualities; data that can’t formally be measured, such as trends, thoughts or opinions. This qualitative data is usually sourced using methodologies like interviews, focus groups or observations.
Alone, quantitative and qualitative data have limitations. Together, however, they can be a powerful force for achieving a detailed understanding of your service users.
Here are four reasons we believe quantitative and qualitative data should be used together in social research:
It enriches your research
Both qualitative and quantitative research carry their own strengths: qualitative data reveals an underlying reasoning, whilst one the other hand, quantitative data creates a fixed measurable reality. By combining the two together, we can reach variables that we cannot achieve with one form of data alone.
It helps you explore
By using both methodologies you create a useful tool for further exploration. Our researchers often use one type of data – be it qualitative or quantitative – to form a hypothesis, and then use the other form of research to explore and test that hypothesis. By doing so, research can reach far greater boundaries.
It helps you navigate surprises
Research can produce unpredictable results – combining of qualitative and quantitative data allows us to reach more variables, in itself a useful tool to find meaning in unexpected results.
Last but not least, the “triangulation” of using both these methodologies allows you to test the consistency and validate your data using more than one source. This increases the opportunity for you to control – or at least assess – some of the multiple causes influencing your work. This not only validates your work and deepens your understanding but by studying it from several standpoints, you are better equipped to map out the richness and complexity of human behaviour.
Do you agree? Leave us a comment below.