The world of mental health has a strong, healthy reliance on evidence-based practices that has led to some very effective therapy models. Christianity historically has not relied on research, but tradition, culture, and values. When we marry the two into Christian mental health, we need to hold both in reverence that I believe furthers the other. That’s why we have created a whole page to the research we have found on faith and mental health that furthers the cause of better data to inform better mental health practices for individuals within a faith tradition and support faith within mental health.
I recognize this topic is not as fun, inspiring, or motivating as much as other topics, including the actual research topics themselves. But the necessity of fundamentally good research data and interpretation of the research is imperative to making lasting change beyond our casual observations.
In the world of research, various methods are employed to investigate phenomena, collect data, and draw meaningful conclusions. Each method offers unique advantages and limitations. To help you better understand what it takes to have good research, we are going to go over different types of research so you can better determine what statistics and research is useful for what purpose.
- Balancing Numbers and Narratives
Quantitative and qualitative research are two broad approaches employed in research. Quantitative research focuses on generating numerical data and analyzing it using statistical methods. It aims to uncover patterns, relationships, and generalizable findings. In contrast, qualitative research aims to explore subjective experiences, meanings, and contexts through methods such as interviews, observations, and document analysis. It provides rich, detailed insights into individuals’ perspectives and is particularly useful for understanding complex social phenomena. Researchers often employ both quantitative and qualitative methods to complement each other and provide a comprehensive understanding of the research topic.
- Contrasting Methodological Approaches
Surveys and case studies are distinct research methods, each with its own purpose and strengths. Surveys involve administering questionnaires or interviews to a large sample of participants to gather data about their beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, or characteristics. Surveys allow for generalizations to be made about a larger population and are useful for studying relationships between variables. Case studies, on the other hand, focus on in-depth examination of a single individual, group, or event. They provide rich, detailed information and are particularly suited for exploring unique or rare cases. While surveys provide breadth of data, case studies offer depth and contextual understanding.
- Building Trustworthy Findings
You may or may not have heard the phrase “Correlation does not equal causation.” This hints at the topics of reliability and validity, fundamental concepts in research methodology. Reliability refers to the consistency and stability of measurement tools or methods. A reliable research instrument should yield consistent results when used repeatedly. Validity, on the other hand, concerns the extent to which a study measures what it intends to measure. A valid research design accurately captures the phenomenon under investigation, ensuring that conclusions drawn are meaningful and trustworthy. Both reliability and validity are essential for establishing the credibility and generalizability of research findings and in a proper research study, will be cited somewhere in the documentation.
- Capturing Change Over Time
Longitudinal studies are research designs that involve collecting data from the same subjects over an extended period. This method enables researchers to observe changes, trends, and relationships within a specific group or population. Longitudinal studies are particularly useful for studying human development, social patterns, and long-term effects of interventions. By tracking individuals or groups over time, researchers gain insights into the cumulative impact of various factors and can establish cause-and-effect relationships. But due to the cost of these studies without quick results, research does not typically start here, but instead with shorter, hypothetical experiments and personable, qualitative research.
- Ensuring Research Credibility
Peer review is a crucial step in the scientific publishing process. After researchers submit their work to a journal, it undergoes evaluation by experts in the field who assess the study’s quality, methodology, and overall validity. Peer review acts as a quality control mechanism, ensuring that only rigorous, reliable, and significant research is published. It helps maintain the integrity of scientific knowledge, promotes intellectual exchange, and helps identify potential flaws or biases in the research.
While we do not expect anyone to fully understand the deep structure and rigid application of these different terms, it is important for you to correctly use data in your sermon in order to avoid incorrectly interpreting data beyond the scope and purpose it was intended. This will allow for decreased stigmatization, better psychoeducation for congregations and communities, and hopefully a richer faith for serving individuals professionally and spiritually.