Marsland N1, Wilson I2, Abeyasekera S2, Kleih U1
An output from the DFID-funded Natural Resources Systems Programme (Socio-Economic Methodologies Component) project R7033 titled Methodological Framework Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches for Socio-Economic Survey Work
Collaborative projectbetween the Social and Economic Development Department, Natural Resources Institute and the Statistical Services Centre, The University of Reading
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich Statistical Services Centre, The University of Reading
A METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK FOR COMBINING QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE SURVEY METHODS Introduction Qualitative survey methodsstarted to gain prominence in development projects during the 1980s, primarily in response to the drawbacks of questionnaire type surveys, which were considered time-consuming, expensive, and not suitable for providing in-depth understanding of an issue (Chambers, 1983 and 1994; Pretty et al 1995). This led to a polarisation in collection and analysis of information with ’traditional’, quantitativetechniques on the one hand, and qualitative methods, on the other3. The result of this polarisation of approaches and the associated shortcomings was that the users of information were often dissatisfied with the quality of data and the resulting analytical conclusions. At the same time, it was recognised that there are areas/interfaces where the two types of approach can benefit from each other,leading in turn to improved quality of information which is required for intelligent decision-making at the various stages of RNR projects and programmes. During the second half of the 1990s, attempts were made to highlight the complementarity of the two types of approach, e.g. in relation to poverty assessments in Africa (Carvalho and White, 1997; IDS , 1994). Other work e.g. Mukherjee (1995)examined the pros and cons of each type of approach and the potential for synergy in a general development context. In the field of renewable natural resources research it was realised that whilst some research practitioners were combining methods as a matter of course whilst conducting field research, experiences were often not documented. Moreover, several avenues of potential remained untapped. Itwas in this context that in 1997 the Socio-Economic Methodologies component of DFID’s Natural Resources Systems Programme commissioned a three year research project “Methodological framework integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches for socio-economic survey work”.
This paper recognises that the terms “qualitative” and “quantitative” are not without potential problems. In theirstudy of participation and combined methods in African poverty assessment, Booth et. al. (1998) make the distinction between “contextual” and “non-contextual” methods of data collection and between qualitative and quantitative types of data . Contextual data collection methods are those which “attempt to understand poverty dimensions within the social, cultural, economic and political environment ofa locality” (Op. Cit. 54). Examples given include participatory assessments, ethnographic investigation, rapid assessments and longitudinal village studies. Non-contextual types of data collection are those that seek generalisability rather than specificity. Examples of these methods include: epidemiological surveys, household and health surveys and the qualitative module of the UNDP Core WelfareIndicators Questionnaire. The distinction between contextual and non-contextual is a useful one, and the current paper does not make this distinction explicitly. In practice however, this paper’s use of the terms “qualitative method” and “informal method” correspond to Booth et. al’s use of the term “contextual”, insofar as these terms are applied in the context of the design and data collection...