In a recent blog post, Howard Aldrich argued that social scientists should drop the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research. I want to push back here and argue that there are important differences between the two methods which must be recognized to ensure high quality research. To be sure, the starting point of the discussion should be recognition of the underlying unity of research methodology, about which Charles Ragin has written eloquently. Quantitative and qualitative methods are both tools for advancing theory and knowledge. But these methods advance theory in distinct, complementary ways. To realize the full potential of research methodology requires recognizing these differences.
by Doris Ruth Eikhof
In the past two years UK universities have frantically prepared their submissions to the sector-wide assessment of their research prowess and output, the Research Excellence Framework, or REF. They have evaluated research outputs, written about their research environment and strategy and poached star researchers from other in institutions to make themselves look good on paper. The REF submissions are being evaluated as I type and the next two years are likely to be spent dealing with the fall-out once results are announced. In the current pause between those two bouts of frantic REF-related activity, I stumbled across a voice from the past that, as so infuriatingly often, succinctly and authoritatively dealt with a key issue this round of REF posed for the first time: that of the relationship between academia and its non-academic context – let’s call it society. Read More