chapter  23
15 Pages

Quantitative methods in the social sciences

WithJonathan Parker

Quantitative methods (QM) represent an oddly controversial aspect of a distinctive strength in British higher education. Undergraduate degrees in the UK emphasise preparation for and the conduct of research across most universities and subjects. This practice is particularly unique and laudable because it is expected of most students. In almost all other countries, undergraduate research is rare and restricted to a small group of elite students. This universal expectation means that research methods teaching and practice is well developed throughout the social sciences in the UK. The quality of student outcomes is consistently high across the spectrum of universities to an extent that is unknown in most countries. This high standard of undergraduate research should translate into a healthy respect for all research methods, both quantitative and qualitative. However, quantitative methods are seen to have declined into a state of crisis, with government and research councils reporting a lack of quantitative skills by university students and staff (Commission on the Social Sciences, 2003; Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2005; Lynch et al., 2007; McVie et al., 2008; Rice and Fairgrieve, 2001).