Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology

Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology

            In research, there are methods which would be helpful in coming up with reliable results - Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology introduction. These methods are categorized into qualitative and quantitative. There are debates regarding which of the two is more appropriate to use and which one generates better results. Although not one of the methodologies applies to all kinds of research, each of the methodologies has its own advantages and disadvantages.

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Qualitative Research Methods

            Qualitative methodology focuses on studying relationships, configurations and patterns among factors, and on understanding and explaining some phenomena. These methods will help the researcher to develop and construct conceptual frameworks and to generate hypotheses that would explain the complex phenomena (Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research, 2008).

Numerous studies in the past have made use of qualitative methodology to analyze results. For instance, in the field of politics during the 1900s, studies and researches which used qualitative and small-N methods were constantly published. During this time, qualitative methodology was viewed as a tool for advancing “last-resort” techniques meant to be used when other methods such as statistical methods are not appropriate for the particular research. Furthermore, many believe that qualitative methods can address “substantive questions of interest” (Mahoney, 2005).

            In addition to this, qualitative methods are useful in formulating assumptions and testing hypotheses. As in the case of comparative politics, qualitative methods come useful as the analysts make use of rational actor assumptions in non-mathematical ways so that hypotheses which can be applied to small number of cases can be generated. In the same way, qualitative methods are best used in comparative politics to analyze modes of causal inference (Mahoney, 2005).

            Even in the field of management, the use of qualitative methods in data collection and analysis is highly regarded because qualitative research focuses on areas which need management research, such as the interrelated and changing phenomena (Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research, 2008).

            Qualitative research methods are applicable and appropriate for studies which aim to gather rich descriptions of certain phenomena. They are also useful for conducting explorations in order to develop theories. Moreover, these methods are best for tracking events and for “illuminating the experience and interpretation of events by actors with widely differing stakes and roles.” Furthermore, qualitative research methods aid in generating and testing hypotheses (Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research, 2008).

            There are a number of qualitative research methods that have been proven which include focus groups, mail and telephone surveys, case study research, content analysis, cognitive interviews, observation, collection and analysis of other data relevant to the study, and structured observations of meetings and events (Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research, 2008).

Quantitative Research Methods

            Quantitative methodology has been first developed for studying natural phenomena in the field of natural sciences. Surveys and other methods such as econometrics, mathematical modeling, and laboratory experiments are just some of the quantitative research methods (Berry, 2006).

            Quantitative research methods are best to use when the purpose is to determine frequency, measures of dispersion and central tendency of variables. Other data that can be included under the quantitative category are frequencies, percentages, variance, standard variations, averages, and cumulative distributions (Berry, 2006).

Qualitative VS Quantitative

            As mentioned above, quantitative methodology was developed for the study of natural phenomena. On the other hand, qualitative methodology was developed for the study of social and cultural phenomenon (Berry, 2006).

There are many areas wherein one or the other of the two broad categories of methodology is more appropriate to use. For instance, in a study on comparative analysis, quantitative methodology cannot generate reliable results because it cannot completely point out the procedures needed in formulating hypotheses which, in turn, would comprise the testable theories. But qualitative methodology is appropriate as it presents concrete tools needed to frame research questions and formulate testable hypotheses. Further, qualitative methodology offers tools necessary for the measurement, conceptualization, and case selection (Mahoney, 2005).

A debate on whether quantitative is better than qualitative and vice versa still ensues today. As time passed, many have made the mistake of assuming that there is a division between quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Although both methodologies function to “see how society works, to describe social reality, to answer specific questions about specific instances of social reality,” there were instances when qualitative epistemology is seen as opposed to quantitative epistemology. Additionally, there has been a division of social sciences which somehow affected people’s view that quantitative and qualitative also differ from each other (Murtonen, 2005, p.22).

Aside from this, quantitative and qualitative methodologies tend to outweigh each other as a way of emphasizing one’s excellence. It was reported that when qualitative tradition arose, quantitative tradition was considered to be an example of bad research. This was because it was not able to produce new theories. On the contrary, quantitative and qualitative methodologies are both “empirical and can be equally near to or far from theory” (cited in Murtonen, 2005, p.22).

This was further strengthened by researches and studies which looked into the use of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Both are not different from each other for some reasons. One is that data derived qualitatively can be coded quantitatively. Second, data derived quantitatively can be based on qualitative judgment. The first argument is true as numerical values can be assigned on qualitative data (Trochim, 2006). For example, a survey questionnaire for a study about print newspaper versus online newspaper requires respondents to provide additional comments. The researcher then classifies and categorizes the responses. Even at this point, categorizing is quantitative. In categorizing data, the researcher assigned themes, and then a coding table can be set up to represent the data.

The second argument is also true because numbers cannot be interpreted on its own (Trochim, 2006). For instance, a survey asks the respondent to rate, from 1 to 5, his opinion regarding this statement: “Online newspapers are better than print newspapers in terms of accessibility, availability, and portability.” The number 1 stands for strongly disagree, 2 for disagree, 3 for neutral and so on. It will be very difficult to interpret results if the only basis is numbers and the assumptions that underlie them are not taken into account.

Quantitative and qualitative research methods are essential tools in the field of research, whether scientific, social, political, educational, or management researches. Both categories have their own benefits and disadvantages. Further, one category is much better to use in one area than the other and vice versa. However, there are quantitative data which can be based on qualitative judgment. And qualitative data can be coded using quantitative analysis. In addition, certain studies call for the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

References

Berry, J. (2006). Quantitative methods in education research. Centre for Teaching Mathematics, University of Plymouth. Retrieved January 16, 2009, from http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/Quantitative/quanthme.htm#A.%20%20%20%20INTRODUCTION

Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research. (2008). Methodological challenge. United States Department of Veterans Affair. Retrieved January 16, 2009, from http://www.colmr.research.med.va.gov/mgmt_research_in_va/methodology/qualitative_research.cfm

Mahoney, J. (2005). Qualitative methodology and comparative politics. Department of Political Science. Retrieved January 16, 2009, from http://www.asu.edu/clas/polisci/cqrm/APSA2005/Mahoney_Comparative_Politics.pdf

Murtonen, M. (2005). Learning of quantitative research methods. Turku, Finland: Painosalama Oy.

Trochim, W.M.K. (2006). The qualitative debate. Research Methods. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualdeb.htm

 

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