Although the philosophy and end goals of quantitative and qualitative research differ, when reviewing research studies, one should ask the following:
- Can I trust the research findings?
- Are the research findings applicable?
The following is a structure for assessing trust and applicability of quantitative and qualitative research studies. The primary audience for this article is those teaching and learning about social science research. Practitioners across disciplines may also benefit from the structure as they evaluate research and conduct their own studies as part of practice. The sections below include a brief rationale for using the terms trust and applicability, followed by strategies that facilitate trust and applicability in quantitative and qualitative research. Although mixed methods research is not directly addressed, strategies presented can be used to support trust and applicability of mixed methods research findings. Finally, it is unlikely that a researcher will use all of the strategies that support trust and applicability, nor would it be appropriate. The strategies presented are not intended to serve as a checklist of techniques for quality assurance of research studies. Instead, they provide a menu of techniques that should be critically chosen based on research paradigm, design, purpose, questions, and context.
In this article I describe the use of a historical cohort control group as a viable option for conducting quasi-experimental outcome evaluation in schools. The article also includes an applied summary of threats to internal and external validity that may be useful to students and practitioners.