Descriptive statistics in research and teaching: are we losing the middle ground?

Descriptive statistics in research and teaching: are we losing the middle ground? There is a poignant divide in contemporary research between qualitative and quantitative approaches, with relatively few disciplines employing the two concurrently and harmoniously. Qualitative methods are to be found almost exclusively in social sciences, and only a few disciplines in this field integrate them with quantitative approaches. The quantitative approach is especially developed in natural sciences, with exceptionally sophisticated methodology developed around hypothesis testing and inferential statistics. The obvious middle ground is represented by the historical approach, combining verbal description with descriptive statistics. The latter offers amazing options towards data visualisation, yet carries relatively little weight in terms of academic success. This paper presents an account of how descriptive statistics has fared historically, with an emphasis on disciplines in the natural sciences and geography—where the author can contribute a personal account. I argue that a more even spread of the three broad types of methodologies would benefit research across fields. Such a spread, if reflected in the school system, would be particularly helpful in facilitating the transition from secondary to tertiary education, and from there to entering research. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Quality & Quantity Springer Journals

Descriptive statistics in research and teaching: are we losing the middle ground?

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Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 by Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Subject
Social Sciences; Methodology of the Social Sciences; Social Sciences, general
ISSN
0033-5177
eISSN
1573-7845
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11135-015-0256-3
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

There is a poignant divide in contemporary research between qualitative and quantitative approaches, with relatively few disciplines employing the two concurrently and harmoniously. Qualitative methods are to be found almost exclusively in social sciences, and only a few disciplines in this field integrate them with quantitative approaches. The quantitative approach is especially developed in natural sciences, with exceptionally sophisticated methodology developed around hypothesis testing and inferential statistics. The obvious middle ground is represented by the historical approach, combining verbal description with descriptive statistics. The latter offers amazing options towards data visualisation, yet carries relatively little weight in terms of academic success. This paper presents an account of how descriptive statistics has fared historically, with an emphasis on disciplines in the natural sciences and geography—where the author can contribute a personal account. I argue that a more even spread of the three broad types of methodologies would benefit research across fields. Such a spread, if reflected in the school system, would be particularly helpful in facilitating the transition from secondary to tertiary education, and from there to entering research.

Journal

Quality & QuantitySpringer Journals

Published: Aug 14, 2015

References

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