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Quantitative vs. Qualitative research

Medical form

When you are looking at whether a new medication works or whether or not a therapy is evidence based, you are looking at quantitative data. This is data that has a number attached to it. We can tell that an antibiotic works because there are less microbes after use than before. A physical therapist can measure a patient’s Range of Motion (ROM) before and after a particular exercise to see if their ROM improves. This is the kind of information an insurance company wants.

However, some things that we might want to know more about are less tangible. Thoughts, feelings and perceptions are harder to describe and even harder to measure. Music therapists often work with both the measurable and un-measurable. We can measure the number of words a client speaks after an intervention but we can’t measure the satisfaction they may feel or the sense of connection that may be restored between a caregiver and their loved one. We can look at stated music preferences but we can’t say, for instance, that Beethoven is better than Duke Ellington or vice versa!

Evidence based practice is important. It makes us accountable as clinicians. However, it is those intangibles of music and human interaction that keep us grounded and remind us that we are not treating a disease or a population but people.

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