Collapsing the Qualitative-Quantitative Divide: New Approaches in Longitudinal Studies

Authors: Sally Weller*, Australia Catholic University
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: research methods; life histories
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The contemporary context creates vexing methodological challenges for geographical research. On the one hand, firm marketing strategies oriented to creating media storylines and government policies focused on creating ‘resilient’ subjects able to adapt effortlessly to changing circumstances present a challenge for qualitative researchers because increasingly, it seems, interviewees rehearse the ‘stylized facts’ of policy scripts (Clark, 1998) and peddle carefully crafted narratives of personal heroism (Tokatli, 2015). On the other side, the availability of ‘big’ data is shifting the focus of quantitative research from detailed studies designed to answer specific research hypotheses to broad-brush analyses that glean causal associations from the limited number of variables available in data collected for other purposes. The generality of the data makes it too easy for researchers to fit the evidence to preconceived conclusions (Weller and Tierney, 2017). After detailing the deficiencies of both approaches in the context of studies of the impact of plant closures, this paper outlines a version of life history method that combines qualitative and quantitative data collection to position temporalities, puncture the discursive power of received narratives and drill down to the quality of information needed to shed light on issues of theoretical significance.

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