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Writing Qualitative Data into a Grant

Posted on November 25, 2011

Bradley Stein (bio) encourages grant writers to include two types of data in their proposals.

 

I think a number of other people, particularly in the services realm, are finding that it's more successful to have a mixed methods grant funded — to have qualitative and quantitative research funded together — rather than to try to do it separately because what you're doing is you're using different tools to try to solve a particular problem, and one tool may be more appropriate for the first part of a problem, and a second tool, such as standard hypothesis testing, may be appropriate for the second part of a problem. And so I think it is oftentimes very useful and beneficial to use both in a grant.

Both in the grants I've written and a number of the grants that I review on study section, you'll oftentimes see mixed methods grants, and generally if both parts need to be done well, but if both parts are done well, that approach tends to get very positive comments.

The way I think of it is qualitative and quantitative are both tools, and they're really trying to understand different parts of the same puzzle, and so oftentimes, particularly with interventions, qualitative comes first. We actually had one funded where we did the quantitative first, where we were looking at the implementation of the School-Based Suicide Prevention Program, and we had quantitative data to understand that some schools were using it a lot more than other schools, and so what the grant — and this was a federally-funded grant — what we did is we used that data to try to identify sort of different cohorts of schools who would be more or less likely to be implementing the Suicide Prevention Program, and then followed it up by doing a series of qualitative interviews with a whole bunch of different officials at the school — the principal, teachers, the person who ran the Suicide Prevention Program, a guidance counselor, to try to understand what happened in that school when there was a suicide attempt or when they were concerned about a child to see if we could understand using the qualitative research, why there was this dramatic difference we were seeing.

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Excerpted from an interview with the contributor in Pittsburgh, PA in May, 2010.

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