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Qualitative and Quantitative Method of Research

Qualitative and Quantitative Method of Research



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Published by: Yunran on Oct 18, 2009
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Quantitative andqualitative research inthe built environment:application of ``mixed''research approach
Dilanthi AmaratungaDavid Baldry Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton
Nature of research in the field of builtenvironment
A discipline or profession is established bydeveloping a body of knowledge which isunique ± that body of knowledge is producedthrough research. Construction and the builtenvironment (BE) draw on a wide variety of established subjects/disciplines, includingnatural sciences, social sciences, engineeringand management. These are then applied tothe particular BE context and requirements(Fellows and Liu, 1997). Only by the use of appropriate methodologies and methods of research applied with rigour can the body of knowledge for BE be established andadvanced with confidence.The approach adopted in this paper is tooutline the process of research in BE, toundertake initial discussion onepistemological issues, to discuss types of research methods available within the fieldand appropriate data analysis techniquesavailable. Conclusions are then drawn fromthis body of evidence and discussion.
Research and research methods
Although research is important in bothbusiness and academic activities, there is noconsensus in the literature on how it shouldbe defined. One reason for this is thatresearch means different things to differentpeople. However, from the many differentdefinitions offered there appears to beagreement that:
research is a process of enquiry andinvestigation;
it is systematic and methodical; and
research increases knowledge.Research studies in BE have been criticised fortheir anecdotal approach when interpretingreal world phenomena. In this sense, it isargued that the clear definition of a researchstrategy is a fundamental and necessaryrequirement for a sound empirical study insuch a field. BE research has reached a stagethat demands the validation of its heuristicprinciples within different ``real world''
The authorsDilanthi Amaratunga
is a Research Fellow,
David Baldry
is a Lecturer,
Marjan Sarshar
is a Director,Construct IT and
Rita Newton
is a Lecturer, all at theSchool of Construction and Property Management, TheUniversity of Salford, Salford, UK.
Research, Methodology, Qualitative techniques,Quantitative techniques
Built environment research consists of cognitive andaffective, as well as behavioural, components. Existingbuilt environment research utilises either strong qualitativeor, more often, strong quantitative methodologies. Aims todiscuss some of the philosophical issues that would beconsidered when undertaking academic research into thebuilt environment. Considers the available researchoptions or paradigms and suggests ways in which aresearcher can make an informed and sensible decision asto how to proceed. The main dimensions of the debateabout the relative characteristics and merits of quantitativeand qualitative methodology are outlined, developing theargument that the use of a single methodology often failsto explore all of these components. The use of a mixedmethods approach is suggested to counteract thisweakness and to enhance research into the builtenvironment.
Electronic access
The research register for this journal is available at
The current issue and full text archive of this journal isavailable at
This paper was initially presented at the 1stInternational Postgraduate Conference organisedby the School of Construction and PropertyManagement at the University of Salford,March 2001.
Work StudyVolume 51.Number 1.2002.pp. 17±31
MCB UP Limited.ISSN 0043-8022DOI 10.1108/00438020210415488
situations in order to refine and integratethem. Buckley
et al.
(1975) suggest that anoperational definition of research requires thesatisfaction of the conditions that:
it be an orderly investigation of a definedproblem;
appropriate scientific methods be used;
adequate and representative evidence begathered;
logical reasoning, uncoloured by bias, beemployed in drawing conclusions on thebasis of the evidence;
the researcher be able to demonstrate orprove the validity or reasonableness of their conclusions;
the cumulative results of research in agiven area yield general principles or lawsthat may be applied with confidenceunder similar conditions in the future.Research is conducted in the spirit of inquiry, which relies on facts, experience anddata, concepts and constructs, hypothesesand conjectures, and principles and laws.Table I illustrates how together theseconcepts of research form a symbolic andrational system of inquiry (abstracted fromBuckley
et al.
, 1975; cited in Then, 1996).Additionally, they constitute the language of research, enabling precision in the use of words and communication among thoseconcerned.Before suggesting some guidelines for BEresearch, it is useful to define researchmethodology and to put the issue of researchand its methodologies into perspective.Research methodology refers to theprocedural framework within which theresearch is conducted (Remenyi
et al.
,1998). There are many factors to beconsidered when choosing an appropriateresearch methodology, with the topic to beresearched and the specific researchquestion being primary drivers (Remenyi
et al.
, 1998).The starting point in research into BE is tofocus clearly on the fact that the ultimatepurpose is to add something of value to thebody of accumulated BE knowledge. Thismeans that an unanswered question orunsolved problem will be identified andstudied and that the researcher will attempt toproduce a suitable answer to the question or asolution to the problem. Therefore, adiscussion of philosophy is essential beforeembarking on a research project.
Schools of thought
Philosophers of science and methodologistshave been engaged in a long-standingepistemological debate about how best toconduct research. This debate has centred onthe relative value of two fundamentallydifferent and competing schools of thought orinquiry paradigms. Logical positivism usesquantitative and experimental methods to testhypothetical-deductive generalisations.Among the major implications of thisapproach is the need for independence of theobserver from the subject being observed, andthe need to formulate hypotheses forsubsequent verification. Positivism searchesfor causal explanations and fundamental laws,and generally reduces the whole to simplestpossible elements in order to facilitate analysis(Easterby-Smith, 1991; Remenyi
et al.
,1998). Phenomenological (interpretivescience) inquiry uses qualitative andnaturalistic approaches to inductively and
Table I
Basic elements of scientific research methodology
Verified hypotheses; used to assert a predictable association among variables; can beempirical or theoretical
A principle is a law or general truth which provides a guide to thought or action
Formal propositions which, though untested, are amenable to testing; usuallyexpressed in causal terms
Informal propositions which are not stated in a testable form, nor is a causalrelationship known or even necessarily implied
Concepts and constructs
Concepts are inventions of the human mind to provide a means for organising andunderstanding observations; they perform a number of functions, all of which aredesigned to form logical and systematic relationships among data
Something that exists, a phenomenon that is true or generally held to be true
The collection of facts, achieved either through direct observations or throughgarnering from records; observation is the process by which facts become data
Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment
Dilanthi Amaratunga, David Baldry, Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton 
Work StudyVolume 51.Number 1.2002.17±31
holistically understand human experience incontext-specific settings. This approach triesto understand and explain a phenomenon,rather than search for external causes orfundamental laws (Easterby-Smith, 1991;Remenyi
et al.
, 1998). This picture is set outin Table II (Silverman, 1998).The interpretive science/phenomenologicalapproach also rejects the positivists' beliefswhich centre on atomism ± that the objects of experience are atomic, independent events.This concept is central to the notion of deducticism, which claims thatgeneralisations can be made from a finite setof events in the past to predict future events.The use of regularities to groundgeneralisations and causations is rejected byphenomenologists. Causation does not referto regularity between separate things or eventsbut about what an object is likely to and whatit can do, and only derivatively what it will doin any particular situation. The goal of BEresearch under the phenomenologicaldoctrine is therefore the development of theories through explanatory methods ratherthan through the creation of generalisations.Easterby-Smith (1991) summarised themain differences between the positivist andthe phenomenological viewpoints similar toTable III.In research design, therefore, the issue thenbecomes not whether one has uniformlyadhered to prescribed canons of either logicalpositivism or phenomenology but whetherone has made sensible methods decisions,given the purpose of the study, the questionsbeing investigated, and the resources available(Then, 1996). Therefore it is crucial to knowabout the methodological paradigms debatein order to appreciate why methods decisionscan be highly controversial. The paradigm of choices recognises that different methods areappropriate for different situations. Table IVprovides a pragmatic view of a summary of some of the strengths and weaknesses of thetwo research paradigms (adapted fromEasterby-Smith, 1991).
Quantitative and qualitativemethodology as research traditions
Research may be categorised into two distincttypes: qualitative and quantitative, accordingto the above schools of thought. The formerconcentrates on words and observations toexpress reality and attempts to describepeople in natural situations. In contrast, thequantitative approach grows out of a strongacademic tradition that places considerabletrust in numbers that represent opinions orconcepts. Over the past 15 years, the debateover the relative virtues of quantitative andqualitative methodologies has gainedconsiderable impetus. While the exactconstitution of the two methodologies variessomewhat from author to author or is definedwith varying degrees of specificity, there issubstantial agreement about the fundamentalantinomies and their practical implications forthe conduct of research.
Table II
Two schools of science
Approach Concepts MethodsPositivism
Social structureSocial factsQuantitativeHypothesis testing
Interpretive science(phenomenological)
Social constructionMeaningsQualitativeHypothesis generation
Table III
Key features of positivist and realism paradigm and the chosen mixed approach
Theme Positivist paradigm Realism paradigmBasic beliefs
The world is external and objectiveObserver is independentScience is value-freeThe world is socially constructed andsubjectiveObserver is part of what is observedScience is driven by human interests
Researcher should
Focus on factsLook for causality and fundamental lawsReduce phenomena to simplest elementsFormulate hypotheses and test themFocus on meaningsTry to understand what is happeningLook at the totality of each situationDevelop ideas through induction from data
Preferred method in theresearch
Operationalising concepts so that they canbe measuredTaking large samplesUsing multiple methods to establishdifferent views of the phenomenaSmall samples investigated in depth or overtime
Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment
Dilanthi Amaratunga, David Baldry, Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton 
Work StudyVolume 51.Number 1.2002.17±31

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