A Tale of Two Cultures: Qualitative and Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences

Gary Goertz and James Mahoney

Princeton University Press, 2012

Some in the social sciences argue that the same logic applies to both qualitative and quantitative methods. In A Tale of Two Cultures, Gary Goertz and James Mahoney demonstrate that these two paradigms constitute different cultures, each internally coherent yet marked by contrasting norms, practices, and toolkits.

Goertz and Mahoney identify and discuss major differences between these two traditions that touch nearly every aspect of social science research, including design, goals, causal effects and models, concepts and measurement, data analysis, and case selection.

Although focused on the differences between qualitative and quantitative research, Goertz and Mahoney also seek to promote toleration, exchange, and learning by enabling scholars to think beyond their own culture and see an alternative scientific worldview.

This book is written in an easily accessible style and features a host of real-world examples to illustrate methodological points. 


"For too long, qualitative research has been portrayed as the ill-mannered stepchild of quantitative research, hampered by its seemingly primitive analytic techniques and misplaced enthusiasm for understanding and interpreting 'cases.' A Tale of Two Cultures puts an end to this nonsense by highlighting the distinctiveness of qualitative research and contrasting it point by point with the quantitative approach. The book offers an accessible, comprehensive challenge to conventional views."
— Charles Ragin, University of Arizona 

"Goertz and Mahoney draw out for readers why the contrasting approaches to social science are appropriate given the overall goals and assumptions of the two paradigms, and then enable readers from both sides to see the alternative perspective and reconsider their own approach and goals."
— Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Ohio State University 

"I greatly admire this book. Goertz and Mahoney are widely respected innovators in qualitative methodology, and their mastery is evident in the range of topics covered, the ingenuity of their arguments, and the clear and confident prose that makes the book accessible to a wide audience. A Tale of Two Cultures will spark necessary and useful debate; it is a great contribution to political methodology."
— David Waldner, University of Virginia 

"A Tale of Two Cultures is beautifully written and compellingly argued. This terrific book will be widely read, taught, and cited."
— Colin Elman, The Maxwell School of Syracuse University