Selecting the Right Tool

'Tools' is a term used in public health work to denote methods or methodologies.There are an array of tools due ot the different disciplines that feed into public health such as epidemiology, statistics, medical sciences, social sciences, medical geography, social marketing, health economics and management studies.Each discipline brings its own theories, methodologis and epistemology (i.e. the type of knowledge that is being produced). This may seem daunting but there are a few tricks to help you decide which tool to use. 

Before you research or evaluate a project/intervention, you will need to choose the appropriate approach. The trick is to ask yourself at the onset of your project do you wish to test a theory or generalise your findings to a wider population (e.g. "80% of women in the UK read women's magazines") or do you want to devise a theory from your observations of how people feel or think about an issue? The former would be a quantitative approach, the latter is qualitative. An easy way to remember the different approaches is to pretend you're a detective in a crime novel or tv-series. Do you have a 'hunch' that someone is the murderer? In which case you'll need to find the evidence to build your case (quantitative). Or do you need to analyze the evidence to put together the story of what happened and derive at a list of suspects? (qualitative).