Chapter 3 Researching Health: Methodological Traditions and Innovations
Quantitative Research and the Positivist Tradition
Quantitative approaches and positivist research methodologies, attempt to study the world through
standardized procedures, uninfluenced by politics, subjectivity, or culture.
These methodologies, including randomized control trails and epidemiological surveys, have proven to
be very powerful methods for examining the efficacy of various treatments and identifying the risk
factors associated with particular disease.
Positivist research typically considered to be more important than other forms of research and, as a
consequence, the cultural and interpretative dimensions of social life are often inadequately researched
Furthermore, supporters of positivist methodologies pretend that politics does not influence the research
process and, as a consequence, ore often blind to the power of the particular interest groups that these
research methodologies serve.
Randomized Control Trials (RCTs)
Randomized control trials are a powerful way of demonstrating the efficacy of drugs and other
biomedical interventions for diseases
Evidence-based Medicine (EBM)
Evidence-based medicine equates evidence with positivist and clinical expertise.
It is an extension of the privileging of RCTs, and proponents of EBM argue that clinical practice should
be based on evidence from RCTs rather than on other forms of evidence that are thought to be
potentially more biased and therefore less effective.
RCTs and EBM become problematic when researchers forget or ignore that they cannot be used to
assess all aspects of health and illness, particularly those relating to social, cultural and interpretative
dimensions of illness.
Epidemiology and Public Health Research
Conventional epidemiology examines the distribution of disease and tries to