Is all research mostly qualitative?

Categories: Qualitative

Research is about learning. The difference between research and in general learning (like usual undergrad student curricular learning) is that research gives a promise of learning something novel or new (such that no one may have known prior to that ) and many may benefit as a result.

Now if we look at Kolb’s learning cycle we could begin with by observing that all of us have concrete experiences and many of us tend to reflect on them (which are two important points in the cycle). Following this comes another point (highlghted again in the Kolb’s cycle) where all that reflection tends to create abstract concepts. Now these concepts in turn create a framework (a sort of ontology) for further active experimentation (another important point in the cycle).

Unfortunately many of us tend to focus mostly on the fruits of active experimentation when we picturize research but it is perhaps a cyclic process between all these four points.

Actually a very small area of active experimentation may be quantitative requiring statistical analysis and largely research is qualitative.

When you reflect on your experience and write a blog post it is a sort of qualitative research which gets published (in blogs mostly to begin with).

When you interview a lot many others who share the same experience with different variations in the theme or try to find a pattern between our experience and other’s that offers unique insights hitherto unrecognized in world literature it could be valuable ground for laying a framework for active experimentation and this is what qualitative research is all about.

It sets the ground for active experimentation to begin. Both qualitative and quantitative are essential tools in a research mind set (and quantitative analysis occupies a very small area of the active experimentation phase of the entire research process).

Another fact that has often bothered me is an inherent tendency in all of us to lean towards our own interventions rather than learn from nature.

Observational studies are somewhat of actual experiments performed by nature which we don’t seem to give much credence to.

On the other hand human interventions on humans and nature is put on top of the hierarchy of evidence (by humans).

However that would be another blog post.


Rakesh Biswas MD
Department of Medicine,
People’s College of Medical Sciences,
Bhanpur, Bypass road,
Bhopal-462037 (M.P.) India
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