The Multiple Roles Required to Conduct High-Quality Quantitative Research

  • Robert Woody
Part of the Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education book series (LAAE, volume 23)


There are some misconceptions about quantitative research that persist in the music education profession. This situation should bother those of us who aspire to conduct high quality research from a quantitative perspective, as well as those of us who advocate greater pluralism in music education research. When carried out most effectively, quantitative research functions to gather evidence. This orientation is an alternative to simply adhering to a system of the rules and conventions of behavioral science. In this essay, I will address some of the misconceptions, drawing on my own experiences as a researcher, an advisor of doctoral dissertations and a board member for the Journal of Research in Music Education, as well as a contracted reviewer for the journals Psychology of Music and Musicae Scientiae. In this essay I discuss four misperceptions, presented here not as precise examples of wording that I’ve heard in the field, but rather as the unspoken thoughts that seem to underlie particular poor practices: (1) Because quantitative research is objective, the researcher is detached and unable to influence the results; (2) Because quantitative research is formulaic, the researcher need not be a strong narrative writer; (3) Researcher casual observations and un-analyzed participant responses can be passed off as qualitative handling of data; and (4) Good quantitative research should comply with the basic rules and conventions we learned in graduate school while writing the dissertation. In taking on these misperceptions, I take much inspiration from the book Statistics as Principled Argument, by Robert P. Abelson (Abelson, RP. Statistics as principled argument. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (1995)). Describing the overall purpose of quantitative research, Abelson asserted, “In making his or her best case, the investigator must combine the skills of an honest lawyer, a good detective, and a good storyteller.” (p. 16) Similarly, in order to improve quantitative research in music education, I suggest that music educators must better apply the multiple roles of teacher, artist, scholar, and human being to their research efforts, in addition to Ableson’s recommendations.


Quantitative research Misconceptions Statistics Empirical research APA style Academic writing Research conventions 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Glenn Korff School of MusicUniversity of Nebraska – LincolnLincolnUSA

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