The aim of this essay is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of combining the two methodologies, qualitative and quantitative, when designing research in relation to the study of drug use

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What are the strengths and weaknesses of combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies when designing research? Relate your answer to the study of drug use in particular.

The aim of this essay is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of combining the two methodologies, qualitative and quantitative, when designing research in relation to the study of drug use.

Qualitative methods of research and data focus more on the context and integrity of the material and produce research findings that are not arrived at by statistical summary or analysis. The methods used in qualitative research include participant observation, intense interviewing and focus groups which provide researchers with in depth information, unlike quantitative method. Quantitative refers to studies whose findings are mainly the product of statistical summary and analysis. In criminological research the quantitative research methods used are generally surveys and questionnaires. The rise of drug use in recent decades has prompted more research into this area using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies not only to attempt to evaluate the extent of drug use in individual areas but also to seek to understand the reasons behind it. A great number of researchers are more frequently using a mixed method research design now to try and increase the credibility of their findings.

Individually each method has both strengths and weaknesses to consider when designing research, however when both are combined researchers can focus more on the strengths of the research. The quantitative analysis of research can compliment the findings of qualitative methods by adding words to numbers and vice versa as it allows the findings to be viewed from two different perspective's using two different data sources. It can also assist researches by helping to indicate the extent to which the findings can be applied to the overall population that is being studied, for example drug users. By using a questionnaire on drug use the findings from the questionnaire can be used to support what was found in an in-depth study of an individual who uses drugs.

Aside from supporting or confirming findings of qualitative research, quantitative analysis can also disconfirm any apparently significant data found. Qualitative data may suggest for example, that people take drugs for a certain reason but by using quantitative methods researchers can disconfirm the idea more easily than if using a single method design. Confirming and disconfirming the significance of research findings is made easier in a mixed method design as two different, almost opposite, data sources are used which increases the validity of a study or research and their findings. This is vital when researching sensitive topics such as drug use as people may not be one hundred percent truthful when answering questionnaires but also because studies of individuals are hard to generalise to a wider population due simply to individual difference such as circumstances.
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Quantitative methods can not explain why things happen or why people do certain things that they do but by combining it with qualitative methods which assist with the understanding of these an overall 'picture' can be achieved of a research topic. Using the research topic of drug use to help explain, quantitative data can aid researches in determining an estimated number or percentage of how many drug users there are in an area or population, what drugs are most commonly used or even who are more commonly users in terms of demographic information. On the other hand, qualitative ...

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