As some of you may remember, we Americans weren’t a particularly healthy lot even before COVID-19 killed one million of us. On the contrary, life expectancy at birth in the United States had actually declined for at least three consecutive years prior to the arrival of the pandemic, a trend that is both worrisome and nearly unprecedented. Just in case you were wondering, the last time the U.S. saw life expectancy decline three years in a row was in the wake of the Flu Pandemic of 1918, which killed more than 600,000 Americans before it ran its course.So, what was killing us in the halcyon days before we were encouraged to wear masks to the grocery store? The short answer is: it’s complicated. Most researchers point the finger at some combination of the excessive prescription of drugs like Oxycontin, the wide availability of black market opiates and opioids (i.e., heroin, fentanyl, etc.), and widespread socioeconomic changes that effectively hollowed out formerly prosperous communities.The four readings below each address what is colloquially known as “The Opioid Epidemic,” albeit with slightly different goals and from slightly different perspectives.ObjectivesThe main purpose of this assignment is for you to use the readings below to develop your own notion of the key similarities and differences between qualitative and quantitative research. So, yeah… try to do that, okay?ReadingsI’d like you to begin with this overviewActionsof the opioid crisis. It’s not the most exciting item on this list, but it will help you put the other three in context.The second reading is an excerptActionsfrom a book called Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (Links to an external site.) by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Both Case and Deaton are economists by training, though they’re also considered experts in public health.The third item is an eye-opening accountActionsof how the average person goes about transitioning from taking Oxycontin to shooting heroin.Finally, we have an excerptActionsfrom a book called Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America (Links to an external site.) by Beth Macy. Although I strongly disapprove of anyone’s using the word “addicted” as a verb, Macy has done a helluva job compiling detailed interviews and crafting them into a compelling, if heartbreaking, narrative.AssignmentsIn total, this assignment requires that you write four blurbs (one for each of the aforementioned readings) and one brief summary conclusion. Each blurb should address the following questions:Does this article tend more towards the quantitative end of the spectrum (i.e., surveys, figures, and/or numbers) or towards the qualitative end of the spectrum (i.e., interviews, quotes, etc.)?What is the objective of this article? In other words, is there a clear research question? What aspect(s) of the opioid crisis is the author trying to explain/address?What information/context/viewpoint does this particular article add to the discussion of the opioid crisis that isn’t available in the other three articles?If someone were to skip the other three articles and ONLY read this one, what information/context/viewpoint would they miss out on?If I were doing this assignment, one of my blurbs might read something like this:“Because this article mostly relies on interviews, it’s definitely more on the qualitative side of things. The author’s objective is to highlight the ways in which Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing tactics downplayed the addictive potential of its flagship painkiller, Oxycontin. Given that the other articles focus primarily on the damage caused by the opioid crisis, this article provides important context by examining how so many people became addicted in the first place. That is, the other readings trace how someone might progress from pills to syringes to an early grave, but they don’t mention that many of the victims of this crisis got started while recovering from something as simple as a routine surgery. Finally, if someone were to skip the other pieces and just read this one, they might not fully grasp the devastation this crisis has wrought on individuals and families. This article makes the whole situation sound more like a white-collar crime than anything else.”Finally, you will conclude this assignment by writing a brief, 1-2 sentence summary in which you explain what you see as the most salient difference between quantitative and qualitative research. Anyone who chooses to complete that summary in the form of either a limerick or haiku will receive up to five extra credit points on their final project (I say “up to five extra credit points” because not all student poetry deserves the full complement of bonus points; if you half-ass it, you might only get 2.5).Grading: 20 points possible (four points for each blurb + four points for your summary)
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