Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Quantitative versus Qualitative Methods
John Gerring & Craig W. Thomas
Perhaps no division in the social sciences is so persistent, nettlesome, and poorly understood as the division between quantitative and qualitative ways of knowing. The cleavage can be traced back to the first applications of statistics within the disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology, and it became increasingly acute in the late 20th century as quantitative approaches gained in stature, grew in complexity, and pushed qualitative empirical analysis out of the limelight. During this period, the division between qualitative and quantitative methods became associated—perhaps inappropriately—with the rival epistemological positions of positivism and interpretivism. Charles Smith (1989) summarizes the now familiar standoff: On the one hand, there are those who argue that only through the application of quantitative measurements and methods can the social sciences ever hope to become “real” sciences; on the other hand, there are those who claim that the subject matter of the social sciences is simply ...