PUSKAPA’s Quant Research Methods Training: It’s all about professional judgment

Some researchers might identify themselves more as ‘qual people’ instead of ‘quant people’. But in PUSKAPA, it’s never about which method we feel more comfortable with, as they are just two different approaches. What matters is to always practice critical thinking when designing, implementing, and reporting our own study, or interpreting others’.

Capacity building session always happens whenever Ilana Seff, our Senior Advisor for Research from Columbia University visits Indonesia. This time, Ilana and Widi Laras Sari, our Lead for Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation. facilitated a two-day training on quantitative research methods. PUSKAPA’s researchers, interns, and two lecturers and researchers from the International Department at Universitas Indonesia joined the training held on November 7th-8th, 2019. We spent two days to refresh our understanding of quantitative research methods so we can all be on the same page about the concepts behind study design, sampling, and data collection techniques; about the how-to of instruments development; about the logic behind analysis path, including to understand correlation and causation, etc.; and about managing biases in research. 

After numerous discussions and breakout sessions, there are a few key takeaways that will be useful not just for researchers, but also program implementers:

  1. It is understandable to want to find as many answers as possible from our study. But we always have to be mindful and make strategic decisions so our own curiosity won’t jeopardize the research.
  2. It is important to be very critical of our own study and identify its limitations. Every study has its limitations. Identifying our flaws and informing the audience about them become a part of our responsibility.
  3. Whatever type of study we are doing, we should always strive for validity. If a study’s validity is compromised, our conclusions may not represent the truth.
  4. Despite the temptation that usually pushes us to see and show causations in our studies, we have to be very careful with how we interpret and communicate our evidence. 
  5. Some journals or program reports tend not to publish studies that don’t show results. This is a huge problem because what doesn’t work is actually as important as what works. Hope this continues to change. 
  6. Always check your own priors and biases. Do our biases and intention cloud our judgment?

 

At the end of the session, Santi Kusumaningrum, PUSKAPA’s director, emphasized that it doesn’t matter whether we’re a ‘quant’ or ‘qual person. What matters is to always start with a strong question and to always practice professional judgments, from the day we had that question to the day we communicate our findings.