Qualitative & Quantitative Data Methods
Are Analogous to the Senses of Sight & Hearing
Qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis work better together, just as the senses of hearing and sight do. Of course, a person can get by with just one. Blind people often develop especially acute hearing and can use Braille for reading. Deaf people learn to read lips and tend to be particularly adept at interpreting visual cues. But generally, a person can do better using the two senses together—for example, to notice facial expressions and tones of voice as well as listening to the words that are spoken. Just as the senses of hearing and seeing generally work better together, so too do quantitative and qualitative methods of data coding, analysis, and interpretation.
There are more than the two senses of seeing and hearing, of course; touch and smell are obvious additions to the list. And there are more than two categories of data and analysis. Graphic/visual data and analyses constitute another category as do combined/mixed data and methods. The analogies can only be pushed so far, but the point is clear: one gets a richer, fuller understanding by combining information from all the senses rather than relying one just one. Likewise you get a fuller, richer understanding by using all data sources and methods of analysis, rather than using only one.
For a researcher to say that I am only going to study quantitative data or only qualitative evidence is akin to saying I’m intentionally going to plug my ears or wear blinders. This can lead to what psychologists call “learned helplessness.” Self-inflicted injury might be a more accurate term.
Of course, a researcher might want to isolate one approach for analytic purposes. For example, I have sometimes looked at video evidence with the sound off, and then listened to the sound track while not looking at the video, and then read transcripts describing the actions and words on the video. But this kind of analytic “taking apart” is usually done with the goal putting together a better understanding of the whole.