In spite of many valiant attempts to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods, the divide between the two remains. Many researchers still tend to use one approach, but not the other. Not only is the divide personal, it often sorts out researchers into topics of study. As a result, many academics assume that quantitative investigation only concerns elections, voting systems, party manifestoes and political attitudes rather than having a more general application. The division becomes manifest in the descriptors researchers apply to themselves and to others: quantitative researchers are known as political scientists; the rest often have the labels of students of politics, area specialists, biographers and public policy specialists. Not only do different topics, skills and networks help create the divide; it is sustained by apparently clashing conceptions of the purpose and practice of social science. Some qualitative researchers think that quantitative work is underpinned by a crude version of positivism. Instead, qualitative work describes complex realities, acknowledges that researchers cannot separate their values from the political world, engages with and seeks to understand the beliefs and aspirations of those who are being researched and rejects the idea that there are universal rules of human behaviour. In this context, a review of quantitative methods cannot just be a description of the different techniques on offer. Such an account would reinforce the idea that quantitative research is a set of techniques rather than a practice. Instead, this chapter aims to persuade sceptics of the depth and subtlety of quantitative work. For much of the debate about quantitative and qualitative research is shallow and rests on stereotypes of the research process.
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- Quantitative Methods
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- Chapter 13