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14 September 2020

"Qualitative research is often regarded as the poor relation of quantitative research: less rigorous and less credible. For instance, in managing the Covid 19 epidemic, governments have largely turned to research which can be expressed in numbers.

To some extent this is understandable. We live in a world where numbers talk. On the other hand, qualitative researchers have not helped themselves by research frequently based on a few interviews with conclusions derived from telling examples rather than detailed analysis of whole datasets.

By contrast, I suggest that qualitative researchers are more likely to convince policymakers and practitioners when they employ rigorous data analysis to study Behaviour using naturalistic data. Rather than compete with quantitative researchers, this means our work can be complementary to them, studying phenomena unavailable to quantitative methods. I use some examples from my own research on healthcare settings to illustrate my argument.

I conclude by drawing out some implications for PhD students and early career researchers. I show how to avoid two dangerous orthodoxies about research and recommend, where possible, delaying consideration of practical relevance until the conclusion of a research project rather than beginning with a set of pre-defined policy aims."

 

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Professor David Silverman

Prof David Silverman is Professor Emeritus in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths College, London, Visiting Professor in the Management Department at King's College, University of London and the Business School, University of Technology, Sydney as well as Adjunct Professor at QUT, Faculty of Education. He has authored 15 books and 45 journal articles on qualitative research, ethnography and conversation analysis. He has supervised over 30 successful PhD students, three of whom are now full Professors.

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