Quantitative Qualitative Research Essay
In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative research methods, discussing the Epistemology, methodology, and the varying techniques each method uses. The essay will also take a brief look at the Ethical considerations of research using relevant psychology examples. Here, when considering the epistemology behind both research methods, we must see it in terms of our essential philosophy of ideas and concepts and the ways in which it can be shaped (Pidgeon & Henwood, 1997, p. 247). The methodology behind the approaches looks at the requirements to carrying out successful research (Fox, 2011, slide 3).
Arguably, one of the major differences between the two would be the methods involved in applying both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. This essay will take a look at these differences and how it affects the outcome of the research and the information produced. The epistemology of these two approaches to social research demonstrates a very clear dividing line between Qualitative and Quantitative research methods. The idea behind Quantitative research follows this progression of the ‘natural sciences’ (Neuman, 2006, p. 7).
Quantitative researchers believe that there is the possibility to describe our reality and to employ an unbiased approach to research. Quantitative research follows the idea of scientific knowledge as a more reformed way of understanding and acquiring knowledge (Fox, 2011, slide 7). On the contrary, Qualitative research follows this growing trend in post-modernism, where scientific problems and claims can and should be challenged. This interpretive social science approach looks at how our understanding of life as we know it is constructed, and that knowledge is tied to power (Fox, 2011, slide 19-21).
There are aspects of qualitative and quantitative research methods that carry quite substantial differences. Within social scientific research, there are three predominant approaches that can be employed (Neuman, 2006 pp. 81-94). These approaches are Positivist Social Science; of which quantitative research falls within, Interpretive Social Science where qualitative approaches belong, and Critical Social Science. Neuman (2006)states that whilst a positivist will use the research methods as a means for a more methodical and mathematical approach to their research, an interpretive esearcher may spend vast amounts of time looking closely at more intimate and in-depth qualitative data to gain an informed knowledge of how the subject produces a meaningful life (p. 88). The methodology behind the two varies greatly, producing different information with the outcomes of the research. Neuman (2006) states, that if you consider these two approaches in terms of their ultimate purpose, quantitative research aims to research and record casual laws of our behaviour, and qualitative research aims to gain an understanding of our social life in terms of the way we build ideas and meanings in our natural environment (p. 8). Whilst Quantitative research will employ sample sizes on a much larger scale, Qualitative research will use far smaller sample sizes.
This variance in sample sizes ultimately affects the results of the research. The quantitative research will produce results that can be, and should be, replicated to achieve a duplicate result each time. The outcome of this type of research may result in generalisations being made about the area of study. These generalisations can apply to larger groups, or even sub-groups if they signify the entirety of a specific population (Burton et al. 009, p. 40). There are problems involved with having a larger sample size, and the mathematical approach quantitative research employs. Neuman (2006, p. 82) also states that this approach reduces the subjects involved in the research to a bunch of numbers and mathematical formulas, and this impersonal approach could never apply to real life and the people involved. The complexities of human behaviour on an individual are more or less overlooked with this approach (Zydziunaite, 2007, p. 9).
Whereas with Qualitative research, by having a much smaller sample size, the research is more in-depth, and the information produced is far more specific. This interpretive social science approach is more concerned with discovering motivations rather than finding the cause of particular behaviour (Zydziunaite, 2007, p. 9). Like the epistemology involved with both approaches, the methodology of Qualitative and Quantitative research varies in the way that they carry out their research successfully.
Quantitative research engages in a similar approach to the methods of the ‘natural sciences’, through their collection of data and the nature of that data being highly numerically based (Neuman, 2006, p. 8). The Qualitative approach rather looks more or less at words and meanings involved in research, the reaction to an action. Within quantitative research, the researcher can produce either a descriptive, correlational or experimental design (Burton et al, 2009, pp. 44-57) when it comes to determining a particular research method.
Descriptive designs endeavour to describe phenomena in its current form, rather than necessarily influence and control the variable (Burton et al, 2009. P. 49). Correlational designs attempt to analyse the degree to which variables involved in the research relate to one another (Burton et al, 2009, p. 53), whilst Experimental design the research is aiming on analysing the reaction to an action (Burton et al. , 2009, p. 44). The research methods involved with Qualitative research can include Ethnography, Observational Research, Interviewing, Action Research, Participatory research and qualitative analysis.
Ethnography looks at spending time in a setting to gain a stronger knowledge on how the decisions of the people within the environment make decisions (Fox, 2011, slide 30), Observational Research which can involve either concealed or ‘undercover’ research, and alternatively, research in which the research is a participant also (Fox, 2011, slide 31). Interviewing can take place in either individual or group settings, and is a great approach to a more exploratory means of research (Fox, 2011, slide 33).
Action Research is a research method that is more or less motivated by a hunger to make a difference to the environments being researched. This form of research is more politically driven and challenges the notion that science must be kept separate from social change (Fox, 2011, slide 35) When carrying out research in psychology ethical concerns are fast becoming an increasingly important issue for not only the researchers, but for society too. Ethical concerns need be addressed before commencement of, during, and in cases too after the research has taken place.
To ensure the well-being of all participants, human and animal, it is essential for proposals for research to be reviewed before commencement (Schweigert, 2006, p. 21-40). Processes and designs should be reviewed by Institutional Review Boards, formed with professionals with a diverse knowledge of proposals with human participants (Schweigert, 2006, p. 22), this is an essential step to have the risk of your research analysed to determine that participants will not only be subjected to any unnecessary risks, but to oversee your legal obligations, as well as moral and ethical debates that might arise with your research.
For example, if your research should involve children, a form on consent would be required by both of the participant’s parents or guardians. The consent form should outline what will be involved in the research, any risks involved, the purpose of the research, and it should also be made clear that should the child resist the idea of participation at any point in the research, they are free to withdraw at any point with no prejudice (Schweigert, 2006, pp. 23-28).
Again, especially when working with children, the researcher must be able to draw the line of when research is mere observation, or when it becomes a violation of privacy (Schweigert, 2006, p. 30-31). The barrier of privacy can be a border line affair if, say, the participants involved in the observation are unaware they are being watched. For example, in a particular study, males were being observed at a distance to study the effects of invasion of personal space in relation to their rate of urination (Middlemist, Knowles, & Matter, 1976).
The environment with the invasion involved an ‘insider’ urinating next to the subject in a public restroom, in the case without invasion; the ‘insider’ was not present. This is a case where consent could not be obtained before the study otherwise it would jeopardise the nature and results of the research. By putting this to a review board, they could help determine any modifications that would be necessary to carry out the research, or whether the research should event take place at all.
Deception is another ethical concern in research. It is when there is no alternative to obtaining consent, and the researcher does not deceive the subject into participation of the research (Schweigert, 2006, p. 28). When deception is a necessity to research, the key to minimising the ethical concern is to ensure you follow up with a debriefing (Schweigert, 2006, p. 31).
When deciding which method to employ for social scientific research, consider the type of information each approach will produce, the thesis of your research (as this will direct you whether or not you should adopt Qualitative or Quantitative research methods) and the varying methodology, epistemology, and techniques each of the approaches use. Once you have decided on a particular research method you can start putting together the design for your research, together with ethical considerations, to ensure that you can successfully and efficiently carry out your research.