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Jessica Anne Stockdale

Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK

Are qualitative and quantitative methodologies in medical science culturally and/or epistemically distinct? A philosophical investigation

Much critical attention has been paid to the use of qualitative methods in the medical sciences, with discussions including the exploratory nature of qualitative methods compared to quantitative methods, and the establishment of scientific standards for qualitative research. I argue that such discussions endorse the incorrect idea that qualitative and quantitative are epistemically distinct categories involving different types of knowledge. Rather, I claim that they are culturally distinct categories involving different intellectual histories. This not only highlights that exploratory research is determined by its objectives rather than the epistemic character of its methods, but also enables researchers to develop innovative social strategies tackling the cultural factors that underlie the qualitative and quantitative gap. This would support the creation of shared standard setting practices in medical science, as well as provide the opportunity to improve medical care.

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