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03 March 2020

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Balancing the use of Quantitative and Qualitative Insights in the development sector

Balancing the use of Quantitative and Qualitative Insights in the development sector

The statement “Correlation is not always causation” has been used to summarize the misleading tendency of using quantitative analysis to find solutions or predict the future. The statement draws our attention to the fact that two situations that vary together, may not have any significant effect on each other, and the observed association may not be a good predictor of what might happen in the future. To ensure accuracy and prevent biases while examining for causal relationships, quantitative researchers have invented several methodologies, such as RCT, Instrumental variables and regression discontinuity, to randomize sample selection, remove potential biases and control for confounding factors. Yet, these methods have their limitations. Algorithms and predictive analysis have been seen to be misleading, and sole dependence on such results may lead to creating wrong solutions. However, it is important to note that quantitative analysis has yielded unparalleled success in helping to determine if a hypothesis (that two specific events are associated) is wrong or right.

Qualitative analysis, on the other hand, does not give this exact sense of measurement but helps to observe situations more closely and in more detail. It tells the story of how a certain situation leads to the other and the ways it may differ in diverse individuals and scenarios. The advantage of this approach is its ability to create a wider view of the situation and helps to pinpoint the specific factors involved in individual cases. Since qualitative analysis involves the people, it helps them to share their stories and participate in the pursuit of solutions.

How qualitative and quantitative research compliments each other

  1. Qualitative research validates and provides explanations for the results observed through quantitative analysis by narrating actual experiences.
  2. Hypotheses can be generated from qualitative analysis to be tested using quantitative methods.
  3. Both research methods can be used for triangulation of the results generated from the other type of research. This means that one research method can be used to verify, validate or reject the results generated from the other.
  4. Quantitative researches can be used to examine the magnitude and significance of the observations made in qualitative researches.
  5. Qualitative research helps to obtain more information on some variables not obtained through quantitative data collection.

Benefits of combining qualitative and quantitative research methods:

A major benefit of combining qualitative and quantitative methods is the use of both broadens and deepens the understanding of the subject matter. Quantitative analysis reveals the magnitude and significance of the effect of one variable on the other, while qualitative analysis allows the readers or users of the result to understand how the findings and conclusions were reached. It provides an understanding of how local contextual factors explain the quantitative results seen.

More so, using both methods help to ensure buy-in from both quantitative and qualitative scholars and also aid acceptance of the result within the population being studied.

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