you gotta give it up for qualitative researchers

I have always been in admiration of successful qualitative researchers. One reason is that qualitative research requires a sort of grit and persistence that is not always needed for many types of qualitative research. Of course, all research requires grit. Every researcher has set backs, failed papers, and plenty of journal rejection.

But qualitative researchers have a pile of barriers that many quantitative researchers do not have. For example, many quantitative researchers are “data down loaders.” They write paper after paper on existing data that someone else made. In contrast, an ethnographer, for example, may not get access to a field site. When they do, they have to generate hundreds of pages of field notes before they can even start. So compare: You can start looking at the GSS in about two minutes, but an ethnographer may take a year before they can really settle in on their issue.

Another big difference is that many quantitative projects have a normal and clearly defined end point. Once the experiment is over, you compare the mean effects. Or, you know the answer once the regression is done. In contrast, many qualitative projects have many, many angles, even those that may have had a clear motivation at the start. The method doesn’t strongly guide you to a conclusion.

Finally, peer review is often bizarre and chaotic for qualitative papers. For quantitative papers using standardized data sets, the main issue is whether the reviewer really believes the result, a judgment about how interesting it is, nit picking over model estimation, and making sure that the results actually match the argument. In contrast, qualitative reviewers may not even accept your data at all and you may never even get to the substance.

So whenever I see some type of qualitative paper make it into a big journal or book form, I’m impressed. It wasn’t easy!



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Written by fabiorojas

June 28, 2019 at 12:40 am

Posted in uncategorized

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