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Appropriate Research Methods

1. Learning Objectives

After reviewing this chapter readers should be able to:

  • Challenge the prevailing notion of a hierarchy of research methods (from stronger experimental designs to weaker qualitative techniques) and crude dichotomous thinking (hard versus soft, quantitative versus qualitative, etc).
  • Understand that there is no right or wrong methodological approach; rather, the central concern should be the appropriateness of the method to the problem being investigated, the knowledge base, the resources available (including both financial and person power), the socio-cultural context, and the level of analysis.
  • Recognize that most medical care and public health interventions still occur “downstream” and are unable to significantly affect the course of mortality, morbidity and disability in modern society.  "Upstream" primary and secondary prevention is required, especially policy-level interventions designed to affect whole populations.
  • Understand that behavioral and social science research methods are particularly well suited to measuring, explaining and evaluating "upstream" public health activities.
  • View quantitative and qualitative research methods as complementary partners in the public health research enterprise, rather than competing with each other.