Choose and designing appropriate methods for collecting, interpreting and disseminating informationDesigning Educational ProgrammesMakes relevant use of quantitative and qualitative dataSkills to collect, choose, interpret and use the information according to the context of the activity.

Psychosocial research using quantitative and qualitative data

The importance of having a different theoretical background.


We had already discussed the difference between quantitative and qualitative data collection in another article. Here we would like to have a look at the topic from the perspective of psychosocial research.


In psychosocial research, ‘quantitative’ research methods are appropriate when ‘factual’ data are required to answer the research question; when general or probability information is sought on opinions, attitudes, views, beliefs or preferences; when variables can be isolated and defined; when variables can be linked to form hypotheses before data collection; and when the question or problem is known, clear and unambiguous.

In contrast, ‘qualitative’ methods are used to answer questions about experience, meaning and perspective, most often from the standpoint of the participant. These data are usually not amenable to counting or measuring. Qualitative research techniques include ‘small-group discussions’ for investigating beliefs, attitudes and concepts of normative behavior; ‘semi-structured interviews’, to seek views on a focused topic or, with key informants, for background information or an institutional perspective; ‘in-depth interviews’ to understand a condition, experience, or event from a personal perspective; and ‘analysis of texts and documents’, such as government reports, media articles, websites or diaries, to learn about distributed or private knowledge.

It is possible to combine quantitative and qualitative methods, although great care should be taken to ensure that the theory behind each method is compatible and that the methods are being used for appropriate reasons. The two methods can be used sequentially (first a quantitative than a qualitative study or vice versa), where the first approach is used to facilitate the design of the second; they can be used in parallel as different approaches to the same question, or a dominant method may be enriched with a small component of an alternative method (such as qualitative interviews ‘nested’ in a large survey). It is important to note that free text in surveys represents qualitative data but does not constitute qualitative research. Qualitative and quantitative methods may be used together for corroboration (hoping for similar outcomes from both methods), elaboration (using qualitative data to explain or interpret quantitative data, or to demonstrate how the quantitative findings apply in particular cases), complementarity (where the qualitative and quantitative results differ but generate complementary insights) or contradiction (where qualitative and quantitative data lead to different conclusions).

A report of a qualitative study should contain the same robust procedural description as any other study. The purpose of the research, how it was conducted, procedural decisions, and details of data generation and management should be transparent and explicit. A reviewer should be able to follow the progression of events and decisions and understand their logic because there is adequate description, explanation and justification of the methodology and methods (Kitto et al., 2008)

Applicability, or transferability of the research findings, is the criterion for evaluating external validity. A study is considered to meet the criterion of applicability when its findings can fit into contexts outside the study situation and when clinicians and researchers view the findings as meaningful and applicable in their own experiences.

Consistency, or dependability of the results, is the criterion for assessing reliability. This does not mean that the same result would necessarily be found in other contexts but that, given the same data, other researchers would find similar patterns.


How to apply it in everyday work

In your working experience, did you have the need, situation or condition to prepare a research before a training activity? How this research has been prepared and did you base your work on a specific working methodology?

If are you going to plan in the coming future a research plan, how you would like to design it?

Reflection Questions

  • Do I really care about quantitative data?
  • How do I prepare my investigation (based on which data)?
  • How I feel prepared for collecting and analyzing data?

Federica de Micheli

A training focusing on participation as methodology (not only as topic) is based on a certain value premise that believes in the empowerment of all the learners and supporting the equal participation of the ones with fewer opportunities or in situations of disatatage (temporary or long term). The focus of participatory training is not just about ‘knowing more’ but about…

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