Wednesday, November 6, 2013


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.


  1. Great post Paul! I like reading what Michael Quinn Patton writes about "methodological appropriateness" as the "gold standard" for evaluation studies. I emphasize to my students every semester that your evaluation (or research) questions drive methods choices and design. It feels as if I've heard quite a few people of late saying something on the order of "mixed methods are best" and I always reply with "well, what are your questions?"

  2. Hi Sheila,
    Thanks for the post--insightful as always! I couldn't agree more that one's choices of methods should be driven by a researcher's question/problem. We wouldn't want to replace one dogma (quant is better or quan is better) with another (mixed is better). That said, unless the question/problem is very narrowly circumscribed, it can probably benefit from being examined from more than one perspective, with more than one method.

  3. Its awesome post.Thanks for sharing..

  4. Hi Dr. Vogt,
    I hope you are well today. If you could offer me insight into the teachings of quantitative courses. I had posted a question on my blog based on my previous experiences as a doctoral student and my additional experiences gaining further professional development. I am seeking further insight. My question was: "Why did most of the quantitative, mixed methods and qualitative courses NOT begin with the research question? I offered an example of when I was learning about descriptive statistics and regression analysis. The professor never started the sections for the course with a research question example and then proceed to show the connection between the question, the possible collection methods and the analysis method she was teaching us. If you could offer me further insight. Thank you for your time.

  5. Yours is an interesting question and comment. Thank you very much for sending. Sorry to be slow with my reply, but I have been traveling the last several days.
    Since I consider starting with research questions to be the natural way to teach design and analysis courses, I could only speculate on why professors would take a different approach.
    Perhaps it is because other approaches do not begin with the question of which method to use, but begin their teaching by saying that once you have selected a particular method, here is the way to use it. Or, maybe other professors believe that teaching methods apart from any particular questions to which they might be applied provides the most general and, therefore, the most useful way to discuss the methods

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  7. From the visual data analysis this will even bring about the more positive results that you actually want to gain about for the quantitative and qualitative data.

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