Lesson 1: Qualitative and quantitative methods

Research methods are generalised and established ways of approaching research questions. Research methods are divided into qualitative and quantitative approaches and involve the specific study activities of collecting and analyzing research data in order to answer the particular research question. It is important to note that not all methods can be applied to all research objectives, so it is important to ensure that the method you choose matches the intention of your thesis work.

Listen to a student, Alice Janvrin’s, experience with qualitative and quantitative methods from research in India:

For example, if your research objective is to describe or discuss the level of knowldege about nutrition practices during pregnancy among women attending antenatal care, it is best to use qualitative methods as these methods are well suited to in-depth descriptions of events, behaviors, opinions, knowledge and beliefs. Here the aim isn’t measurement, but rather description of what they know, how they came to know it and how this knowledge informs their current eating practices.

However, if your research objective is to assess the nutritional status of women attending antenatal care then you would be compelled to use a quantitative method such as standard anthropomorphic measurements – like body mass index.

Similarly, if you want to determine if there is a relationship between knowledge about nutrition during pregnancy and the actual nutritional status of pregnant women, you would have to use a quantitative approach that combines a measure of nutrition knowledge using an instrument like a survey with an outcome measure of current nutritional status using a standardazed tool like an anthropomorphic measurement.

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