Caleb Snider, Congress 2016 student blogger
During their June 1st Career Corner workshop at Congress 2016 Can we all get along? Bridging the quantitative-qualitative divide (hosted by SAGE Publishing and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences), Professors Alex Clark (University of Alberta), Ian Milligan (University of Waterloo), and Michael Young (Royal Roads University) offered advice on developing comprehensive methodologies that embrace both the quantitative and the qualitative.
Professor Clark spoke about how qualitative method users need to learn how to speak to the gatekeepers of certain specialist journals who are more familiar with quantitative methodologies in order to get their work published. He gave three critical pieces of advice: care about methods by talking, sharing, writing and publishing about your methodology and ontology (he suggested Twitter as a great place to start); be crystal clear on what your research contributes to the field; and play the game—be confident and strategic by adapting your language and terminology to the community or journal you want to speak to.
Professor Milligan called on historians and other traditionally quantitative-phobic disciplines to embrace big data. With the advent of the Internet, he said, historians are shifting from a scarcity of resources to an overabundance, and must build new infrastructures to deal with this glut of information. By looking at the metadata first before particular pieces of content, historians can draw context for that content from the numbers.
Professor Young described his work developing a proposal to identify the gaps in services that contribute to chronic homelessness in the Arctic. After speaking with local people involved in and around the problem, Professor Young realized that he had to develop mixed methodologies, combining rich narrative data on the services needed, but with quantitative data to justify changes to public policy and resource allocation. He advised all researchers to make sure their content determines their methodology rather than vice versa, and cautioned against falling back on stagnant methodologies out of fear of failure.