Numbers generated from a survey like Natsal can be incredibly useful for understanding what is going on in the population, but they can’t tell us everything. It is important to recognise this limitation and consider how quantitative data (that is, data derived from numbers) can complement - and be complemented by - qualitative data (that is, data which are not derived from numbers and include spoken words).
Typically, we can think about quantitative data helping us to understand the ‘what, when, where’ questions, while qualitative data can provide insights into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.
For this reason, sometimes quantitative research can be useful to provide pointers as to the questions qualitative research needs to ‘unpack’, while other times, qualitative research is first needed to help identify the questions and response options that a survey should ask. Indeed, research often benefits from both quantitative and qualitative methods being used iteratively.