[R] Factor Analysis?

Michael Hart mhart at terrigal.net.au
Thu Feb 3 01:49:14 CET 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: John Maindonald <john.maindonald at anu.edu.au>
To: p.dalgaard at biostat.ku.dk <p.dalgaard at biostat.ku.dk>;
wolters at ikp.uni-bonn.de <wolters at ikp.uni-bonn.de>
Cc: r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch <r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch>
Date: Thursday, February 03, 2000 11:08 AM
Subject: Re: [R] Factor Analysis?

>One reason for the current popularity of qualitative research methods
>in the social sciences may be a disaffection with the way that these
>methodologies are used to provide results whose meaning and
>interpretation make sense only to high priests of these arts.  There's
>a good deal of unease about much of the way these methdologies are
>used in the social sciences, but those who are uneasy rarely have the
>technical skills needed to go beyond unease to articulate criticism.

Hi John,

Whilst this is off the topic of this list it does deserve a response.

I hate to be somewhat cynical but I think the current popularity for
qualitative research, particularly in social sciences and psychology, stems
largely from the fact that the funding bodies require a desired result and
are using "research" to "prove" their point.

The research method, in many cases, must be manipulated to produce the
desired result.  Qualitative research allows this on many levels:

1.  It allows selective usage of data.
2.  It allows selective interpretation of data.
3.  It allows selective reporting of data.

Whilst I think qualitive research is a necessary precurser to quantitative
work I believe it has been put to malevolent use in some areas of social
science and psychology.

I refute your point above and have seen in the past some fairly
sophisticated statistics developed by these groups some of which has been
adopted by more mainstream medical sience.

I know that in Australia over the last few years I can think of a number of
scientificly flawed "research" projects which cost the taxpayer millions and
only done to enhance the funding body (i.e particular social interest
groups) profile and ability to get more money as well as secure "scientific
proof" of their philosophy.  If you would like to discuss the particular
projects (one of which the ABS was contracted to do) I would be pleased to
do so off list.

Michael Hart
Ph  +61 2 4325 4859
Fax +61 2 4324 9660

>(By the way, I think qualitative research has a pretty important role.
>I do not want to leave the impression that I see qualititative and
>quantitative approaches as alternatives, though this is the way they
>are presented in much of the literature.  What is needed and has long
>been needed is an effective marriage of quantitative approaches with
>well-conducted qualitative research.)
>John Maindonald               email : john.maindonald at anu.edu.au
>Statistical Consulting Unit,  phone : (6249)3998
>c/o CMA, SMS,                 fax   : (6249)5549
>John Dedman Mathematical Sciences Building
>Australian National University
>Canberra ACT 0200

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