A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

Synopsis

Some in the social sciences argue that the same logic applies to both qualitative and quantitative methods. In A Tale of Two Cultures, Gary Goertz and James Mahoney demonstrate that these two paradigms constitute different cultures, each internally coherent yet marked by contrasting norms, practices, and toolkits. They identify and discuss major differences between these two traditions that touch nearly every aspect of social science research, including design, goals, causal effects and models, concepts and measurement, data analysis, and case selection. Although focused on the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, Goertz and Mahoney also seek to promote toleration, exchange, and learning by enabling scholars to think beyond their own culture and see an alternative scientific worldview. This book is written in an easily accessible style and features a host of real-world examples to illustrate methodological points.

Excerpt

This book analyzes quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences as separate cultures. We arrived at this “two cultures” view in the course of carrying out teaching and research over the last decade. We repeatedly discovered ways in which qualitative and quantitative researchers vary in their methodological orientations and research practices. We also observed misunderstandings and constrained communication among qualitative and quantitative researchers. As we tried to make sense of these facts, it became clear to us that the qualitative and quantitative traditions exhibit all the traits of separate cultures, including different norms, practices, and tool kits.

Our goal in writing this book is to increase scholarly understanding of the ways in which these cultures are different as well as the rationales behind those differences. In order to do this, we cover a large range of methodological topics. These topics concern key research design and data analysis questions that nearly all social scientists must face. Many of the topics covered here are not addressed in research methods textbooks and cannot be found together in any convenient book on methodology, qualitative or quantitative. Hence, one way to read and use this volume is as a guide to the range of questions that any social scientist might consider when designing and carrying out research.

We first learned about each other’s research while teaching at the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, and we would like to express our gratitude to the many students who attended this Institute and gave us feedback on our two cultures argument over the years. We owe the Institute’s leader, Colin Elman, special thanks for making room for our work in the annual program. We are also grateful to the Organized Section on Qualitative and Multi-Method Research of the American Political Science Association, which provided newsletter and conference outlets for early drafts of several chapters.

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