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Appropriate Research Methods

12. Summary

This anthology adopts a selectively ecumenical approach to behavioral and social science research methods.  Customary quantitative approaches can be enormous contributions to the still dominant downstream, individualistic approach to health problems. Higher quality social surveys need to be conducted (reliably), interviews completed (accurately), complex behavioral phenomena operationalized (validly), data analyzed appropriately (multi-level modeling), etc. All of these and many other issues are addressed in this collection.

Social and behavioral sciences should be involved in randomized trials (whether individual or group) and outcomes appropriate to the level of analysis must be conceptualized and then measured.  Complementing these quantitative approaches are a range of equally valuable qualitative techniques, which offer great potential and which also have deep origins in the social sciences.  The emergence of these qualitative methods is, in many respects, a back to the future approach to emerging health issues.  The central organizing theme for this collection is the notion of appropriateness.  We employ this notion to avoid the distinction between hard and soft, quantitative or qualitative, stronger and weaker methods.

Appropriate or inappropriate to the level of analysis (and intervention)? That is the question.