Get over it!


— Am I the coordinator of a network for *qualitative* methods?

— Well, yes I am.

— Did I write a book where half of the chapters were about *quantitative methods* (written by one author) while the other half were about *qualitative methods* (written by another author)?

— Guilty as charged.

But still. Seriously. Isn’t it time we put this counter-productive division between so-called quantitative and qualitative methods to rest? Just leave it behind. We have been calling it an over-simplification for decades, but have obviously not been able to shake it.

We talk a lot in academia about being transdisciplinary, collaborative, boundary-defying and innovative. But when we teach research methods it’s always with the *qualitative* (on Monday with the hippie teacher) and the *quantitative* (on Wednesday with the teacher in the suit). When I work with grading Bachelor’s and Master’s papers, the methods chapters give me the feeling that the students have become frightened by this.

They devote entire paragraphs to declaring how they ”chose to use a qualitative method because of this or that” or why they ”opted for a quantitative design because that or this”. Then it begins: the lengthy section about what qualitative (or quantitative, depending on what choice they made) method is.

But wait, it’s not over yet. Because then follows the equally lengthy section on what quantitative (or qualitative, depending on their choice) method — that is the approach they chose not to use — is about. Wouldn’t it be better to skip all of this and jump right ahead to describing what they actually did with their data?

This state of affairs is not the students’ fault. But it is an indication of what we as teachers convey as important.

Furthermore, our standard fancy words about the importance of *combining* or *triangulating* methods do not represent any actual transgression of this duality. Rather, they strengthen it as they rely on a strict line of demarcation between the two *schools*.

Is it really possible to work with quantitative methods without making any qualitative considerations? And can one work qualitatively without making any quantitative reflections? I think not, and I think most would agree. Of course, we all work in different scientific disciplines, and within various fields of inquiry. Some methods are definitely more suitable for some research problems. But overall I would welcome more — and more serious — attempts at blurring the qualitative/quantitative divide. What we need are more methods that truly integrate qualitative and quantitative considerations, so that we can finally get beyond this crippling dichotomy.

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