Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates For the latest information and advice see: Coronavirus (COVID-19) frequently asked questions
Sgoil Cheumnaichean Saidheans Sòisealta na h-Alba

When Methods Meet

Qualitative interviewing and Randomised controlled trials


In this 15-minute film Mhairi MacKenzie and Laurence Moore discuss the challenges but also the potential benefits of bringing together the method of qualitative interviewing with the classically quantitative method of randomised controlled trials. The strengths of the former that are highlighted include the capacity to capture wider contextual information in order to understand people’s behaviour and the opportunity to ask broader questions, while the strengths of RCTs that are emphasised include the confidence that any results are not brought about by selection bias in the study, and that the research generates results in a form that policy-makers can act upon straightforwardly. The discussion brings out that qualitative researchers may feel that they are left playing ‘second fiddle’ when the two methods are combined, because of the status attached to working with large numbers of cases, and that quantitative researchers can feel criticised for not asking a broader range of questions. However, these are not insuperable problems and various examples are given of how the two methods have the potential to be combined productively in research that asks both how and why people behave in the ways that they do around interventions in health, policing and other policy-relevant fields.

Academics in conversation: Mhairi MacKenzie, University of Glasgow, and Laurence Moore, Universityof Glasgow.


References and further reading:
  • M. Mackenzie, C. Collins, J. Connolly, M. Doyle, and G. McCartney, ‘Working-class discourses of politics, policy and health: “I don’t smoke; don’t drink. The only thing wrong with me is my health”’ in Policy and Politics (2016) (doi:10.1332/030557316X14534640177927)
  • M. Mackenzie, C. O’Donnell, E. Halliday, S. Sridharan and S. Platt, ‘Do health improvement programmes fit with MRC guidance on evaluating complex interventions?’ British Medical Journal, (2010: 340, c185), (doi:10.1136/bmj.c185)
  • C. Bonell, A. Fletcher, M. Morton, T. Lorenc and L. Moore, ‘Realist randomised controlled trials: a new approach to evaluating complex public health interventions’, Social science & medicine, (2012 75(12), pp.2299-2306) (doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.08.032)
  • L. Moore and K. Tapper, ‘The impact of school fruit tuck shops and school food policies on children’s fruit consumption: a cluster randomised trial of schools in deprived areas’, Journal of epidemiology and community health (2008: 62.10: 926-931) (doi:10.1136/jech.2007.070953)
  • G.F. Moore, S. Audrey, M. Barker, L. Bond, C. Bonell, W. Hardeman, L. Moore, A. O’Cathain, T. Tinati, D. Wight and J. Baird, ‘Process evaluation of complex interventions: Medical Research Council guidance’, bmj, (2015 350, p.h1258), (doi:10.1136/bmj.h1258)


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.