A Conceptual Introduction to Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives

A Conceptual Introduction to Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives

A Conceptual Introduction to Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives

A Conceptual Introduction to Modeling: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives


When seeking to test specific hypotheses in large data sets, social and behavioral scientists often construct models. Although useful in such situations, many phenomena of interest do not occur in large samples and do not lend themselves to precise measurement. In addition, a focus on hypothesis testing can constrict the potential use of models as organizing devicesfor emerging patterns -- summaries of what we believe we know about the dynamics of situation.

This book bridges the gap between "quantitative" and "qualitative" modelers to reconcile the need to impose rigor and to understand the influence of context. Although there are many different uses for models, there is also the realistic possibility of doing credible research without their use. A critical reexamination of the assumptions used in quantitatively-oriented models, however, suggests ways to increase their effectiveness as organizers of both quantitative and qualitative data.

Students of methods in psychology, sociology, education, management, social work, and public health -- and their instructors -- are increasingly expected to become familiar with both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Unfortunately, they find few vehicles for communication regarding the implications of overlapping work between the two approaches. Using models as organizing devices for a better dialogue between assumptions and data might facilitate this communication process.


May you live in interesting times. (Old Chinese curse)

There is always that battle between preconceived notions of what the image looks like with respect to the found object and the discovery of form through the process of combining multiple nondescript shapes. (Guagliumi , 1994, p. 47)

This book is about modeling as an ongoing process. Models facilitate continuing dialogue about which concepts are important and unimportant, what their nature is and is not, and how they may and may not be related to one another. These dialogues lead to four forms of understanding: descriptive, interpretive, explanatory, and predictive.

Engaging in this multidimensional specification process is akin to Guagliumi's (1994) description of constructing a collage. There is a lot of tension and rediscovery from the variety of found objects whose relationships to one another give meaning to the overall construction.

After an overview of the critical realist framework within which mixed-method modeling is possible, the early chapters in this book discuss the disciplines involved in specifying and respecifying concepts and relationships. The next three chapters discuss ways of elaborating models to capture more of the complexity that characterizes situations that we are interested in understanding. The critical importance of feedback loops and context for describing, interpreting, explaining, and making predictions with respect to social life are emphasized in two of these chapters. The next two chapters focus on the tensions involved in evaluating and simplifying models, and a final chapter recapitulates the major themes.

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