Photo by Blake Verdoorn

My experience with quantitative inquiry began in my childhood. My father being a mathematics teacher, my mother being a self-taught auditor and watching my sisters dapple with numbers in their respective classes made me view numerical language as familiar. So I began to rehearse this language as well into high school, and then college. I became fluent as I minored in Mathematics and performed well in my graduate coursework. I believe that numbers beautifully illustrate the reality of a problem in precise form. At its most basic, my students are in awe of the frequencies of large data sets that are captured in color and category. We see the rowing boat lying on the jetty, which is pretty significant against the backdrop of the trees, mountains and clouds, and sky. Then my students ask, "Did all those people in that category feel that way? Did they choose that? Could they have chosen something else? Is that choice represented? If the choice is not available, what does that mean?" I reply, "Yes, the results that have been produced represent the choices of those people in that particular instant. Those people are a sample of persons chosen randomly from a population. This population is under scrutiny because in some ways, they can answer the question being asked. And they could have chosen something else, but they were not given those choices. They worked with the hand they were dealt. In my opinion, quantitative inquiry does not deal with inconsistencies, peculiarities and abnormalities. Those are usually called 'outliers' in analysis. However, that is where qualitative analysis enters... to understand those inconsistencies, peculiarities and abnormalities. Our one case studies. 

Personally quantitative analysis are reflections of meaning. The reflection provides a literal description of what is present, but cannot absorb the context. The temperature of the water, the degree of heat in the air or the cacophony of animals and insects in this peaceful composition are not measured. To attain meaning of context and go beyond what is literally seen, qualitative analysis is beneficial. It is true that qualitative analysis will only provide meaning of one minute detail of this image - how and why one observer views this image from this angle for example. But I believe the more persons that indulge in qualitative analysis, in conjunction with quantitative analysis, the greater there may be for appreciation of the complexity of this vision, and possibly respect for some things that cannot be perceived - like the termites on the rowing boat.