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When Methods Meet

Qualitative and quantitative methods in social care research


In this sixteen-minute film David Bell and Alison Bowes discuss the potential and also the challenges of combining quantitative and qualitative research methods in research into social care. They draw on examples of work that they have done together in looking at an issue that has great policy relevance, where the introduction of free personal care following Scottish devolution had the effect of creating a natural experiment. As an economist and a social policy researcher, they are both interested in what effects the availability of free care has had on the behaviour of unpaid carers. They describe how their collaboration has allowed them to ask better questions than if they had adopted either quantitative or qualitative methods on their own, and thereby to make sense of evidence that unpaid carers have not simply handed over caring work to paid professionals. In working together on mixed methods projects, they describe how they have needed to overcome differences of disciplinary languages and conventions about sampling and framing of research questions. The benefits of collaboration in mixed methods projects involving different disciplines in terms of methodological rigour and better quality data make these challenges worth taking on, and point to a future in which further innovations will take methodological practice in currently unpredictable directions.

Academics in conversation: Professor David Bell, University of Stirling (webpage: and Professor Alison Bowes, University of Stirling (webpage:


Contributors Professor David Bell is Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling. His webpage is Professor Alison Bowes is Professor in Sociology at the University of Stirling. Her webpage is


We have created a downloadble resource sheet for this video. It has a transcript of the conversation, the list of references, and suggested seminar questions.