Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment: application of ``mixed'' research approach

Dilanthi Amaratunga David Baldry Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton
The authors Dilanthi 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 the School of Construction and Property Management, The University of Salford, Salford, UK. Keywords Research, Methodology, Qualitative techniques, Quantitative techniques Abstract Built environment research consists of cognitive and affective, as well as behavioural, components. Existing built environment research utilises either strong qualitative or, more often, strong quantitative methodologies. Aims to discuss some of the philosophical issues that would be considered when undertaking academic research into the built environment. Considers the available research options or paradigms and suggests ways in which a researcher can make an informed and sensible decision as to how to proceed. The main dimensions of the debate about the relative characteristics and merits of quantitative and qualitative methodology are outlined, developing the argument that the use of a single methodology often fails to explore all of these components. The use of a mixed methods approach is suggested to counteract this weakness and to enhance research into the built environment. Electronic access The research register for this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregisters The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0043-8022.htm
Work Study Volume 51 . Number 1 . 2002 . pp. 17±31 # MCB UP Limited . ISSN 0043-8022 DOI 10.1108/00438020210415488

Nature of research in the field of built environment
A discipline or profession is established by developing a body of knowledge which is unique ± that body of knowledge is produced through research. Construction and the built environment (BE) draw on a wide variety of established subjects/disciplines, including natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and management. These are then applied to the 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 and advanced with confidence. The approach adopted in this paper is to outline the process of research in BE, to undertake initial discussion on epistemological issues, to discuss types of research methods available within the field and appropriate data analysis techniques available. Conclusions are then drawn from this body of evidence and discussion.

Research and research methods
Although research is important in both business and academic activities, there is no consensus in the literature on how it should be defined. One reason for this is that research means different things to different people. However, from the many different definitions offered there appears to be agreement that: . research is a process of enquiry and investigation; . it is systematic and methodical; and . research increases knowledge. Research studies in BE have been criticised for their anecdotal approach when interpreting real world phenomena. In this sense, it is argued that the clear definition of a research strategy is a fundamental and necessary requirement for a sound empirical study in such a field. BE research has reached a stage that demands the validation of its heuristic principles within different ``real world''
This paper was initially presented at the 1st International Postgraduate Conference organised by the School of Construction and Property Management at the University of Salford, March 2001.


Logical positivism uses quantitative and experimental methods to test hypothetical-deductive generalisations.. Research methodology refers to the procedural framework within which the research is conducted (Remenyi et al. nor is a causal relationship known or even necessarily implied Concepts are inventions of the human mind to provide a means for organising and understanding observations. uncoloured by bias. The starting point in research into BE is to focus clearly on the fact that the ultimate purpose is to add something of value to the body of accumulated BE knowledge.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. 1996). 17±31 situations in order to refine and integrate them. 1975. Table I illustrates how together these concepts of research form a symbolic and rational system of inquiry (abstracted from Buckley et al. observation is the process by which facts become data Facts Data 18 . hypotheses and conjectures. and generally reduces the whole to simplest possible elements in order to facilitate analysis (Easterby-Smith. Remenyi et al. This means that an unanswered question or unsolved problem will be identified and studied and that the researcher will attempt to produce a suitable answer to the question or a solution to the problem. they perform a number of functions. are amenable to testing. and the need to formulate hypotheses for subsequent verification. can be empirical or theoretical A principle is a law or general truth which provides a guide to thought or action Formal propositions which. This debate has centred on the relative value of two fundamentally different and competing schools of thought or inquiry paradigms. experience and data. a phenomenon that is true or generally held to be true The collection of facts. Phenomenological (interpretive science) inquiry uses qualitative and naturalistic approaches to inductively and Verified hypotheses. logical reasoning. used to assert a predictable association among variables.. all of which are designed to form logical and systematic relationships among data Something that exists. with the topic to be researched and the specific research question being primary drivers (Remenyi et al. it be an orderly investigation of a defined problem. Among the major implications of this approach is the need for independence of the observer from the subject being observed. concepts and constructs. which relies on facts. . achieved either through direct observations or through garnering from records. David Baldry. . 1998). Positivism searches for causal explanations and fundamental laws. and principles and laws. they constitute the language of research. Before suggesting some guidelines for BE research. appropriate scientific methods be used. though untested. the cumulative results of research in a given area yield general principles or laws that may be applied with confidence under similar conditions in the future. adequate and representative evidence be gathered. Buckley et al. 1991. Schools of thought Philosophers of science and methodologists have been engaged in a long-standing epistemological debate about how best to conduct research. 2002 . Therefore. 1998). Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . cited in Then. be employed in drawing conclusions on the basis of the evidence.. (1975) suggest that an operational definition of research requires the satisfaction of the conditions that: . There are many factors to be Table I Basic elements of scientific research methodology Laws Principles Hypotheses Conjectures Concepts and constructs considered when choosing an appropriate research methodology. 1998). Additionally. . the researcher be able to demonstrate or prove the validity or reasonableness of their conclusions. . it is useful to define research methodology and to put the issue of research and its methodologies into perspective.. usually expressed in causal terms Informal propositions which are not stated in a testable form. enabling precision in the use of words and communication among those concerned. a discussion of philosophy is essential before embarking on a research project. Number 1 . Research is conducted in the spirit of inquiry. .

Quantitative and qualitative methodology as research traditions Research may be categorised into two distinct types: qualitative and quantitative. In research design. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . according to the above schools of thought. and only derivatively what it will do in any particular situation. 1991). Causation does not refer to regularity between separate things or events but about what an object is likely to and what it can do. 1996). In contrast. The interpretive science/phenomenological approach also rejects the positivists' beliefs which centre on atomism ± that the objects of experience are atomic. Therefore it is crucial to know about the methodological paradigms debate in order to appreciate why methods decisions can be highly controversial. Easterby-Smith (1991) summarised the main differences between the positivist and the phenomenological viewpoints similar to Table III. the quantitative approach grows out of a strong academic tradition that places considerable trust in numbers that represent opinions or concepts. The paradigm of choices recognises that different methods are appropriate for different situations.. the debate over the relative virtues of quantitative and qualitative methodologies has gained considerable impetus. independent events. 1991. Over the past 15 years. the questions being investigated. given the purpose of the study.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. therefore. Table IV provides a pragmatic view of a summary of some of the strengths and weaknesses of the two research paradigms (adapted from Easterby-Smith. This approach tries to understand and explain a phenomenon. there is substantial agreement about the fundamental antinomies and their practical implications for the conduct of research. which claims that generalisations can be made from a finite set of events in the past to predict future events. Table III Key features of positivist and realism paradigm and the chosen mixed approach Theme Basic beliefs Positivist paradigm The world is external and objective Observer is independent Science is value-free Focus on facts Look for causality and fundamental laws Reduce phenomena to simplest elements Formulate hypotheses and test them Realism paradigm The world is socially constructed and subjective Observer is part of what is observed Science is driven by human interests Focus on meanings Try to understand what is happening Look at the totality of each situation Develop ideas through induction from data Researcher should Preferred method in the Operationalising concepts so that they can Using multiple methods to establish different views of the phenomena research be measured Small samples investigated in depth or over Taking large samples time 19 . The goal of BE research under the phenomenological doctrine is therefore the development of theories through explanatory methods rather than through the creation of generalisations. This picture is set out in Table II (Silverman. 17±31 holistically understand human experience in context-specific settings. The former concentrates on words and observations to express reality and attempts to describe people in natural situations. While the exact constitution of the two methodologies varies somewhat from author to author or is defined with varying degrees of specificity. Number 1 . and the resources available (Then. David Baldry. The use of regularities to ground generalisations and causations is rejected by phenomenologists. rather than search for external causes or fundamental laws (Easterby-Smith. 2002 . the issue then becomes not whether one has uniformly Table II Two schools of science Approach Positivism Interpretive science (phenomenological) Concepts Social structure Social facts Social construction Meanings Methods Quantitative Hypothesis testing Qualitative Hypothesis generation adhered to prescribed canons of either logical positivism or phenomenology but whether one has made sensible methods decisions. Remenyi et al. This concept is central to the notion of deducticism. 1998). 1998).

they may be of considerable They are not very helpful in generating relevance to policy decisions theories Because they focus on what is. through theoretical generalisation. Yin (1994) stresses that the type of question posed. 2002 . and therefore each strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages. some qualitative researchers such as King (1994) seem to assume a fixed preference or predefined evaluation of what is good and bad research methodology. In order to avoid gross misfits between the desired outcome and the chosen strategy. Each research strategy has its own specific approach to collect and analyse empirical data. Such normative assumptions have. but also from ideas themselves An approach to the study of the social world.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. McGrath (1982) in his study of research choices makes it clear that there are no ideal solutions. According to Yin (1994). only a series of compromises. which seeks to describe and analyse the culture and behaviour of humans and their groups from the point of view of those being studied Choice of research strategy From the discussion under schools of thought. there are overlapping areas. rich and meaningful'' Inductive ± where propositions may develop not only from practice. 17±31 Table IV Comparison of strengths and weaknesses Theme Positivist (quantitative paradigm) Strengths Weaknesses The methods used tend to be rather They can provide wide coverage of the inflexible and artificial range of situations They are not very effective in They can be fast and economical understanding processes or the Where statistics are aggregated from large significance that people attach to actions samples. ``deep. Patton (1990) expresses the same view: ``research. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . it is apparent that both qualitative and quantitative methods involve differing strengths and weaknesses. are the conditions which should 20 . been around for many years and are illustrated in Table V. which bring complexity to the process of strategy selection. like diplomacy. in order to allow theory and concepts to proceed in tandem The results are said to be. the control over actual behavioural elements. or literature review. Table V Claimed features of qualitative and quantitative method Quantitative Inquiry from the outside Underpinned by a completely different set of epistemological foundations from those in qualitative research Are simply different ways to the same end? Involves the following of various states of the scientific research The results are said to be ``hard generalisable data'' Qualitative Inquiry from the inside An attempt to take account of differences between people Aimed at flexibility and lack of structure. research strategy should be chosen as a function of the research situation. This quote by Patton is perhaps a very poignant guide to any researcher contemplating the most appropriate avenue of successfully completing a sizable piece of research study. David Baldry. Number 1 . Although each strategy has its own characteristics. they make it hard for policy makers to infer what changes and actions should take place in the future Data-gathering methods seen more as Data collection can be tedious and require natural than artificial more resources Ability to look at change processes over Analysis and interpretation of data may be time more difficult Ability to understand people's meaning Harder to control the pace. and the degree of focus on historical or contemporary events. progress and Ability to adjust to new issues and ideas as end-points of research process they emerge Policy makers may give low credibility to Contribute to theory generation results from qualitative approach Phenomenological (qualitative paradigm) Perhaps as a response to the dominance of quantitative research. or what has been recently. of course. is the art of the possible''.

with strong potential for revealing complexity. theory and methodology are usually closely interrelated in qualitative research. at least to some extent. what. how many. Qualitative research: meanings or practices Defining and justifying qualitative research It is difficult to find an unambiguous and definitive statement as to what qualitative research in BE actually is. reflective of the everyday life of individuals. 1989. Such data provide ``rich Table VI Research strategies versus characteristics Form of research question Requires control Focuses on over behavioural contemporary events? events? Yes No Yes Yes Strategy Experiment Survey How. all data are qualitative. In some senses. they refer to issues relating to people. why Source: Yin (1994) No No No Yes/No No Yes Table VII Research tactics and philosophical bases Research approaches Action research Case studies Ethnographic Field experiments Focus groups Forecasting research Futures research Game or role playing In-depth surveys Laboratory experiments Large-scale surveys Participant observer Scenario research Simulation and stochastic modelling Positivistic (quantitative) Have scope to be either Have scope to be either Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Have scope to be either Phenomenological (qualitative) Strictly interpretive Have scope to be either Strictly interpretivist Have scope to be either Mostly interpretivist Have scope to be either Strictly interpretivist Mostly interpretivist Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Strictly interpretivist Mostly interpretivist Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Source: Galliers (1992). cited in Miles and Huberman. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . Table VI depicts the outcome of the intersection between most common research strategies and the three conditions identified above. (1998) 21 . and situations (Berg. where. 1994).Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. so that there is a view on what ``real life'' is like. These situations are typically ``banal'' or normal. David Baldry. why Case study How. Number 1 . What is important about well-collected qualitative data? One major feature is that they focus on naturally occurring. groups.. Another feature of qualitative data is their richness and holism. societies. 1998) provides a list of approaches or tactics. why Who. In the BE discipline there are distinct signs of a growth in the application and acceptance of the use of qualitative approaches. It is important to note that most research tactics listed in the table can be used. cited in Remenyi et al. and organisations (Miles and Huberman. Galliers (1992) (cited in Remenyi et al. 2002 . Qualitative research is conducted through an intense and/or prolonged contact with a ``field'' or life situation. Table VII summarises this list according to the general philosophical base underpinning the different research tactics. as either positivistic (quantitative) or phenomenological (qualitative) devices. why History How. 1994). objects. ordinary events in natural settings. how much Archival analysis How. This is primarily due to the fact that topic. 17±31 provide the grounds for strategy choice.

Further. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . Also the inherent flexibility of qualitative studies (data collection times and methods can be varied as a study proceeds) gives further confidence that what has been going on is really understood. In addition their strong potential for testing hypotheses is underlined on seeing whether specific predictions hold up. A quantitative research design has always been concerned with defining an epistemological methodology for determining the truth-value of propositions and allows flexibility in the treatment of data. Qualitative data. independence of the observer from the subject being observed. nested in a real life context. This process is directed 22 towards the development of testable hypotheses and theory which are generalisable across settings and in contrast this methodology is more concerned with how a rich. . however. Further. Number 1 . 1977). 1994). reliability and validity may be determined more objectively than qualitative techniques. strong in measuring descriptive aspects of BE. many of the arguments for the use of . Indeed. illuminate. (2) complexity of analysis.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. It can be seen that the strengths of quantitative methodologies for BE research are: . helps to search for causal explanations and fundamental laws. and (4) flexibility and momentum of analysis. 1994). processes and structures of their lives: their ``perceptions. in terms of comparative analysis. exploring a new area. There are three other claims for the power of qualitative data. Quantitative investigations look for ``distinguishing characteristics. and for connecting these meanings to the social world around them. qualitative data are useful when one needs to supplement. elemental properties and empirical boundaries'' and tend to measure ``how much'' or ``how often'' (Nau. validate. In general. . 2002 . and have a ring of truth. 1976). but is considered to have meanings only in so far as they can be derived (Chalmers. complex description of the specific situations under study will evolve. are fundamentally well suited for locating the meanings people place on the events. They have often been advocated as the best strategy for discovery. emphasises the need to formulate hypothesis for subsequent verification. with their emphasis on people's ``lived experience''. assumptions. . it has long been recognised that purely qualitative research may neglect the social and cultural construction of the variables studied (Richards and Richards. They are appropriate to examine the behavioural component of BE. or reinterpret quantitative data gathered from the same setting. explain. Richards and Richards (1994) outline four major perceived constraints which have traditionally militated against the use of qualitative approaches in practice despite the excitement about their potential in theory. subject under analysis is measured through objective methods rather than being inferred subjectively through sensation. Furthermore. the fact that such qualitative data are typically collected over a sustained period makes it powerful for studying any process. reflection or intuition. 1995). and generally reduces the whole to the simplest possible elements in order to facilitate analysis (Easterby-Smith. These are: (1) volume of data. . 1991) These strengths. developing hypotheses. Quantitative research Quantitative research designs are characterised by the assumption that human behaviour can be explained by what may be termed ``social facts'' which can be investigated by methodologies that utilise ``the deductive logic of the natural sciences'' (Horna. comparison and replication are allowable. . (3) details of classification record. It is a branch of thought which tried to find out the origins. and repeatability of data collection in order to verify reliability. David Baldry. are not the sole prerogative of quantitative designs. statistical analyses. . prejudgments. presuppositions'' (Van Manen. 17±31 descriptions'' that are vivid. justifications and progress of knowledge through observation. quantitative philosophy could be defined as an extreme of empiricism according to which theories are not only to be justified by the extent to which they can be verified but also by an application to facts acquired.

Number 1 . reliable and valid. The assumption in triangulation is that the effectiveness of triangulation rests on the premise that the weaknesses in each single method will be compensated by the counter-balancing strengths of another. and methodologies'' and is frequently used interchangeably to describe research strategies that incorporate a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods in the study of the same phenomenon. many of the supporting arguments are decidedly pragmatic such as time constraints. ``turning ideas around''. The situational contingencies and objectives of the researcher would seem to play a decisive role in the design and execution of the study. A further weakness in quantitative approaches lies in their tendencies to take a ``snapshot'' of a situation. their appropriateness in explaining them in depth is more limited. Quantitative research is strong in measuring variables such as a quantitative assumption regarding construction process capability in that ``processes can be reduced to a set of variables which are somehow equivalent across construction projects. . . theoretical perspectives. rather they focus on the different dimensions of the same phenomenon. and for assisting in making inferences and in drawing conclusions. even when significant. is best thought of as complementary and should therefore be mixed in research of many kinds. employees' capability. It generally denotes a reference to a combination of research methods ± thus the use of qualitative and quantitative techniques together to study the topic ± which is very powerful for gaining insights and results. . 1994). the need to limit the scope of the study and so on. these dimensions may appear to be confluent: but even in these instances. while qualitative data can help the quantitative side of the study during design by aiding with conceptual development and instrumentation. Eisenhardt. Yin. . However. The weaknesses of such quantitative research designs lie mainly in their failure to ascertain deeper underlying meanings and explanations of BE. 1994. David Baldry. Quantitative data can help with the qualitative side of a study during design by finding a representative sample and locating deviant samples. This term is occasionally taken to refer to a broad approach which combines ``multiple observers. The mixed (or balanced) approach There is a strong suggestion within the research community that research. 1994). to elaborate or develop analysis. The combination of methodologies. 17±31 quantitative research. qualitative and quantitative methodologies are not antithetic or divergent. as well as providing statistical ``proof''. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . Miles and Huberman. especially in an academic environment where resources are limited. Rossman and Wilson (1991) answer the question of why link qualitative and quantitative data and consider it to be: . then a quantitative approach may be justified. Some construction related aspects might be affected by temporal changes which cannot always be identified within a single quantitative study. Although the use of a single methodology has been advocated by a number of authors (for example. where they apparently diverge. in research (Yin. The 23 This emphasis has developed with the growing attention focused on ``triangulation'' . etc. persons involved and across situations'' and. if this measurement is one of the focuses of the research. Although quantitative methods can be used to measure such factors. that is to measure variables at a specific moment in time. providing fresh insights. have pragmatic origins in terms of allowing large-scale data collection and analysis at a reasonable cost and effort. motivating factors. Das (1983) states that: . . the underlying unity may become visible on deeper penetration . both quantitative and qualitative. to enable confirmation or corroboration of each other via triangulation. The crucial aspect in justifying a mixed methodology research design in BE is that both single methodology approaches (quantitative only and qualitative only) have strengths and weaknesses. as illustrated in Figure 1 (Fellows and Liu. 2002 . Triangulation is the combination of methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon. and . are important in most of the BE research concepts. can focus on their relevant strengths. 1997).Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. on the other hand. providing richer details. 1989. to initiate new lines of thinking through attention to surprises or paradoxes. factors such as physiological factors. Sometimes.

many of which have been borrowed from other disciplines. may allow a representative sample to be drawn for the qualitative analysis. the researcher should ensure that the final product maximises the strengths of a mixed method approach (adapted from Jones. . allow the researcher to develop an overall ``picture'' of the investigation. Marsh et al. . 1997): . Quantitative methods can be used to enable statistical testing of the strengths of such relationships. . Qualitative methods. (1978) note that quantitative research may confirm or deny the representativeness of a sample group for such qualitative research. where ``qualitative data can support explicitly the meaning of quantitative research'' (Jayaratne.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. . 17±31 Figure 1 Triangulation of qualitative data researcher should aim to achieve a situation where ``blending qualitative and quantitative methods of research can produce a final product which can highlight the significant contributions of both'' (Nau. 1993). Much BE research is still largely exploratory. ``core'' is appropriate to investigate such aspects by examining the informant's point of view. who is carrying out qualitative research. By adopting the following assumptions. Quantitative analysis may be more appropriate to assess the behavioural or descriptive complements of the BE. such as capabilities of employers. If such relationships are determined. . Quantitative analysis may confirm or reject any apparently significant data and the relationships that may emerge from research. Thus a qualitative 24 . Number 1 . Different tactics for pursuing research Besides the qualitative-quantitative and the positivistic-phenomenological classifications. The descriptive analysis. that his sample has some representativeness of the overall population. then quantitative methods are weaker in providing explanations. as well as overall behavioural aspects. Thus the mixed methodology will guide the researcher. there are many different ways of describing research approaches and methods. 1995). Qualitative methods may assist in understanding the underlying explanations of significance. There is an almost limitless number of research tactics and variations in BE studies. Quantitative analysis may complement the findings of qualitative methods by indicating their extent within aspects of the BE. BE research involves affective characteristics. The use of qualitative methods allows for unexpected developments that may arise as part of such research. or unstructured interviews. especially observation. David Baldry. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . . 2002 . .

where the phenomenon under investigation is generally obscured from public view.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. whose purpose is to gather descriptions of the life-world of the interviewee with respect to interpretation of the meaning of the described phenomena''. Number 1 . Greater control is achieved by focusing on a sub-group of a larger population. Thus fieldworkers often rely on other forms of information. 1989). and qualitative data are required to validate particular measures or to clarify and illustrate the meaning of the findings. where: . such as documentation. This is precisely the outlook subscribed to by proponents and practitioners of participant observation (Waddington. a quantitative study has been carried out. rich descriptions and explanations of processes in identifiable local contexts. which may vary in formality from casual conversations to tape-recorded interviews and routinised surveys (Denzin. and where it is little understood and it may therefore be assumed that an ``insider'' perspective would enhance the existing knowledge. Tracer studies Tracer studies are a method of identifying and describing organisational processes across time and stakeholder group by the use of ``tags'' as a way of following the unfolding process through the organisation. case study. . To do them all justice is not the aim of this paper but some of the available methods are described here. with the observation and recording of human activity. Qualitative research may be conducted in dozens of ways. reliable. individual perceptions of processes within a social unit are to be studied prospectively. the terms ethnography. see precisely which events led to which consequences. where it is controversial. and to understand how and why they come to have this particular perspective. Data gathered enable many hypotheses to be tested that were not amenable to survey data. tracers are associated with the description of activities over time ± tracing may be carried out concurrent with the process as it occurs and/ or retrospectively (Hornby and Symon. as its name suggests. qualitative inquiry. field methods. 1994). The goals of any qualitative research interview are therefore to see the research topic from the perspective of the interviewee. participant observation is best suited to research projects: which emphasise the importance of human meanings. Kvale (1996) defines the qualitative research interview as ``an interview. feel and act. David Baldry. mass media coverage and discussions with respondents. All tracers are concerned with elucidating processes and so. As Smith (1992) observed. complete and simple way of getting that information is to share their experience''. the way that they think. it can be used almost anywhere. most practitioners of the method adhere to the principle of ``triangulation'' ± the use of more than one source or method of data collection. . Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . 1994). With qualitative data one can preserve chronological flow. many with long traditions behind them. 1994). 1994). It is a highly flexible method. individual historical accounts are required of how a particular phenomenon developed. using a series of interviews. prompting the discussion of the process with organisational members. 2002 . . and . According to Waddington (1994). naturalistic methods. . interpretations and interactions. The guidelines below suggest the circumstances in which a research interview is best suited (King. the most widely used qualitative method in BE research is the interview. the most truthful. and is capable of producing data of great depth (King. Qualitative research methods Qualitative data is a source of well-grounded. Although participant observation is chiefly concerned. and responsive evaluation have become practically synonymous. 25 Participant observation ``When one's concern is the experience of people. 17±31 and some believe that research in these areas is not ``properly'' scientific. a study focuses on the meaning of particular phenomena to the participants. and identifying further important sources of information. The qualitative research interview Without doubt. by definition. exploratory work is required before a quantitative study can be carried out. and derive fruitful explanations. participant observation.

. a range of coverage. and central tendency. Research tactics and their philosophical relationships Galliers (1992) (cited in Remenyi et al. responses are compared with ``hard data''. because of the opportunity for open-ended inquiry. which aim to build theory and generate hypotheses rather than primarily to test them. frequency. Case studies are tailor-made for exploring new processes or behaviours or those which are little understood. Yin (1994) defines case study as an empirical investigation into contemporary phenomenon operating in a real-life context. Much case study research..Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. while a further consequence is the low response rate (Fellows and Liu. such as questionnaires. or otherwise recombining the evidence to address the initial propositions of a study. 2002 . Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . . only when the correct analytical strategy is put together with its correspondent interactions. Analysing research evidence The analysis and interpretation of research data form the major part of the research. The definition of the analytical strategy determines the limits of data collection and dissemination of results. Table VIII summarises this list according to the general philosophical base underpinning the different research tactics. 26 Survey techniques. is able to draw on inductive methods of research. 1994). David Baldry. the emergent theory is likely to be testable with constructs that can be measured and hypotheses that can be falsified. Different types of methods can be found including examining. as either positivistic (quantitative) or phenomenological (qualitative) devices. Other sources include official reports or statistics. does it enable the generation of ``laws''. Some of the common analytical methodologies are summarised below. 1998) provides a list of approaches or tactics. In this sense. It is stressed that. 17±31 Case studies in built environment research The case study is a research strategy which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within single settings (Amaratunga and Baldry. Quantitative research methods Considerable research in BE involves asking and obtaining answers to questions through conducting surveys of people by using questionnaires and interviews. The key feature of the case study approach is not method or data but the emphasis on understanding processes as they occur in their context. They have a high likelihood of generating new theory and. the meanings attached to particular behaviours and how behaviours are linked. interviews etc. where an intimate understanding of what concepts mean to people. as the term law is usually employed in science. 1997). It is important to note that most research tactics listed in the table can be used. such as total cost of a construction project. Detailed case studies may be essential in comparative research. categorising. The definition of what is the ``analytical method'' is of paramount importance to any analytical strategy. Descriptive survey is a common type of research setting which could be categorised under quantitative research in BE and is concerned with information generally obtained by interview or mailed questionnaire. The expense of a survey will be very large if the population is substantial. It is particularly valuable when there is no clear definition between the phenomenon and the context itself. View of qualitative data analysis Miles and Huberman (1994) define qualitative data analysis as consisting of three concurrent flows of activity: data reduction. The prospective outcome will be a sizeable volume of information that can be classified by type. differing lengths and levels of involvement in organisational functioning and a range of different types of data (Hartley. 2000) and usually refers to relatively intensive analysis of a single instance of a phenomenon being investigated. are highly labour-intensive on the part of respondents and particularly on the part of the researcher. tabulating. Number 1 . Often. The investigator interviews individuals or studies life history documents to gain an insight into behaviour and attempts to discover unique features and common traits shared by all persons in a given classification. at least to some extent. furthermore. case studies have an important function in generating hypotheses and building theory in BE research. Case study research is a heterogeneous activity covering a range of research methods and techniques.

when similar results happen and for predictable reasons. 2002 . and transforming the data that appear in written-up field notes or transcriptions. and which data collection approaches to choose. As with data reduction. when the qualitative data analysis produces contrasting results. The three streams can also be presented. which cases. ``Final'' conclusions may not appear until data collection is over. as the researcher decides which conceptual framework. and conclusion verification were described ± as 27 interwoven before. but also for predictable reasons. Even before the data are actually collected. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . Yin (1994) alerts that there is a risk of some interpretive discretion on the part of researchers. Conclusion drawing and verification. Data reduction occurs continuously throughout the life of any qualitatively oriented project. and conclusion drawing and verification. and after data collection in parallel to make up the general domain called ``analysis''. 1994). As Tesch (1990) points out. and retrieval methods used. the three types of analysis activity and the activity of data collection itself form an interactive. as shown in Figure 2 (Miles and Huberman. but they often have been prefigured from the beginning. one of the most desirable strategies is to use a patternmatching logic (Yin. which research questions. it is called ``theoretical replication''. data display. Pattern matching For qualitative data analysis. Here. 1994). the evidence produced is seen to involve the same phenomena described in the theory. In this process. In this view. depending on the size of the corpus of field notes. they are a part of analysis. are only half of a Gemini configuration. it also can be seen as ``data condensation''. Explanation building This strategy is in fact a special type of pattern matching. abstracting. David Baldry. anticipatory data reduction is occurring. the coding. Miles and Huberman (1994) have become convinced that better displays are a major avenue to valid qualitative analysis. during. the goal is to analyse the qualitative . focusing. even when a researcher claims to have been proceeding ``inductively''. The overall quality of pattern matching could be improved by using quantitative analytical strategies. Data reduction is not something separate from analysis. cyclical process. Number 1 . In contrast.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. Data reduction refers to the process of selecting. There is some criticism in the literature concerning the lack of precision of the pattern-matching approach. storage. Data reduction. simplifying. in Miles and Huberman's (1994) opinion. Such logic compares an empirically-based with a predicted pattern. the creation and use of displays are not separate from analysis. The most frequent form of display for qualitative data in the past has been extended text. and the sophistication of the researcher. and is called ``literal replication''. 17±31 Table VIII Research tactics and philosophical bases Research approaches Action research Case studies Ethnographic Field experiments Focus groups Forecasting research Futures research Game or role playing In-depth surveys Laboratory experiments Large-scale surveys Participant observer Scenario research Simulation and stochastic modelling Positivistic (quantitative) Have scope to be either Have scope to be either Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Have scope to be either Phenomenological (qualitative) Strictly interpretivist Have scope to be either Strictly interpretivist Have scope to be either Mostly interpretivist Have scope to be either Strictly interpretivist Mostly interpretivist Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation Strictly interpretivist Mostly interpretivist Strictly positivistic with some room for interpretation data display. but the procedure is more difficult and therefore deserves separate attention.

versus any trend based on some artefact or threat to internal validity.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. Time series analysis This strategy deals with conducting a timeseries analysis. correlation analysis. look for contradictions ± across data sources. factor analysis. . such as conversion and discourse analysis. Many quantitative approaches are subject to particular analytical techniques with prescribed tests. The purpose of analysing the data is to provide information about variables and. by re-examining the data. also specified earlier. by collecting specific data to test an alternative hypothesis. Many analyses of quantitative data concern searching the data patterns of various types. compressed assembly of information that permits conclusion drawing and action. Such analysis can follow many intricate patterns (Yin. communicating findings. No matter what the nature of data collected. To ``explain'' a phenomenon is to stipulate a set of causal links about it. . it is appropriate to begin analysis by examining the raw data to search for patterns. Some of the most commonly used techniques are: chi-square analysis. with literature. usually. versus some rival trend. and . specifically in the analysis of behavioural elements of performance. David Baldry. data processing. The essential logic underlying a time series analysis is the match between a trend of data points compared with a theoretically significant trend specified before the onset of the investigation. therefore comparisons may be made and hierarchies of categories may be examined. as statistics are very useful in determining directions of relationships when combined with theory and literature. data entry and transfer. relationships between them. by mediating variables. Hence. 1994). . 1998). try to resolve contradictions ± through alternative plausible explanations for a finding. Number 1 . 1998). When interpreting the data when the mixed method is used. the following steps are recommended: . directly analogous to the time series analysis conducted in experiments and quasi-experiments. Evaluation criteria Any review of research methods will be incomplete without considering the fundamental issues relating to evaluation of . look for patterns of agreement ± across data sources. data interpretation. 17±31 Figure 2 Components of data analysis: interactive model data by building an explanation about the situation. 28 Quantitative data analysis Data display is generally an organised. Most quantitative type information yields data which are suitable for statistical analyses. identify the most important findings ± rank and organise them. by mediating variables. with experience. A quantitative data analysis plan generally consists of: raw data assessment. and completing data analysis (Pacitti. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . Quantitative data analysis often deals with statistical data analysis techniques. etc. present the findings simply ± through charts and tables. Increasing the accuracy of the pattern matching described above and explanationbuilding analysis are one of the key strategies in searching for the typical behaviour and practical boundaries of quantitative indicators (Pacitti. quantitative studies are undertaken to yield statistical evidence of relationships and their strengths. selected photos or videos that illustrate an important point. 2002 . so that hypothetical relationships can be established. with experience. with literature.

1996). Gill and Johnson. concept. It should also be noted that the above deliberation refers very much to the traditional evaluation criteria of validity and reliability that are governed by the convention of the quantitative research paradigm. reliability is essentially repeatability ± a measurement procedure is highly reliable. analysis and evaluation of data. 1996). It is worth noting that there is a different perspective on validity when viewed within the context of qualitative and quantitative research (Then. interpretation. Although early qualitative researchers felt compelled to relate traditional notions of validity and reliability to procedures in qualitative research. Yin (1994) identifies the following to establish validity and reliability in qualitative research: (1) establish a chain of evidence. or category describes reality with a good fit: A valid measure is one which measures what it is intended to measure. Qualitative research identifies the presence or absence of a given feature in a given problem or situation. as opposed to quantitative research which measures the degree of presence of the feature itself. model. The debate is rooted in philosophical differences about the nature of reality and takes the form of qualitative versus quantitative methods. David Baldry. if a later investigator followed exactly the same procedures. In general. thus the extent to which findings drawn from studying one group are applicable to other groups or settings (the applicability of findings beyond the group). The object is to ensure that. 1991). as described earlier. Yin.Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. These results are the outcomes from the collection. 1996). it can be seen that the basic difference between reliability and internal validity is that reliability deals with the data collection process to ensure consistency of results. if it comes up with the same result in the same circumstances time after time. 1994). reliability and generalisability. The technical language of such research evaluation includes terms such as validity. It means in essence that a theory. (2) have the draft study report reviewed by the key informants. while internal validity focuses more on the way such results support conclusions (Then. 29 The goal of reliability is to minimise the errors and biases in a study. later writers (Miles and Huberman. . use . the measure of validity is often considered under either internal or external validity (Yin. Validity For a given problem. . 17±31 any research outcomes. Research into the BE is no exception. it is not the measure that is valid or invalid but the use to which the measure is put . validity is one of the concepts used to determine how good is an answer provided by research (Then. 1991). 2002 . 1994. Number 1 . . the same findings and conclusions would result. the validity of a measure then depends on how we have defined the concept it is designed to measure (De Vaus. (3) use of single research exploratory design by: establishing a causal relationship. From the above discussion. Another definition by Simon and Burstein (1985) states that: . Internal validity refers to whether or not what are identified as the causes actually produce what has been interpreted as the ``effect'' or ``responses'' and checks whether the right cause-and-effect relationships have been established. Reliability Reliability is the extent to which a test or procedure produces similar results under constant conditions on all occasions (Yin. . 1996). 1991) developed their own language to describe the quality criteria in a qualitative research paradigm. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . In research methodology literature. In fact. 1994. the value of any research stems from the validity of its results and the extent of its contribution to the body of knowledge. External validity criterion refers to the extent to which any research findings can be generalised beyond the immediate research sample or setting in which the research took place. In many respects an evaluation is often focused on measures to counteract the weaknesses inherent in the particular research strategy chosen to carry out a particular piece of research (Then. even employed by different people. Easterby-Smith. Thus internal validity is the issue of establishing theoretical territory that goes with the defined construct and ensuring consistency between it and other recognised constructs. External validity could be achieved from theoretical relationships. Miles and Huberman (1994) concentrate on improved and rigorous techniques for data gathering and analysis as the best way to enhance credibility and acceptance. 1994.

topics being investigated). at times. however. a quantitative approach involves collecting and analysing numerical data and applying statistical tests. . as well as other disciplines. has a number of advantages within BE research. There are many arguments in the literature regarding the merits of qualitative versus quantitative approaches. (4) The outcome of the enquiry is stated in explicit terms. The purpose of the plan should be directed towards the testing of a hypothesis (deduction) or evaluation of evidence in terms of constructing a hypothesis (induction). and the best that can be done is to describe the ways in which research is carried out in a variety of situations. and . format of the narrative). and what significance the findings may have. an overview of the study project (objectives. (4) develop formal research study framework. which is more subjective in nature and involves examining and reflecting on perceptions in order to gain an understanding of social and human activities. and to show how their methodology or findings mesh with other efforts within the same field of inquiry. Qualitative research is generally easier to start. and specification of the unit of analysis. as described above. A mixed methodology. to be the most suitable to achieve the objectives of the specific piece of research. . Other researchers prefer a qualitative approach. (5) The conclusions are documented with sufficient support and clarity to establish what was done. Some researchers avoid taking a quantitative approach. which means answering the questions why the 30 research is being done and what it is supposed to achieve. which typically has the following sections: . (2) The research problem is defined. Conclusion There is no uniquely best approach to research. One of the early decisions during the research process is to decide which is the best approach for the research under consideration. desirable design. Some researchers prefer a quantitative approach which is objective in nature and concentrates on measuring phenomena. 1996) provide five essential steps as the requirements to ensure the assurance of quality research and the achievement of reliability and validity: (1) Knowledge stems from observations which take place through a definable searching process. what was found. Buckley et al. either in the natural world or in the BE in particular. Marjan Sarshar and Rita Newton Work Study Volume 51 . They further find that it is harder to start and decide an overall design for a quantitative study. field procedures (credentials and access to sites. Development of knowledge Research can be differentiated by looking at the approach. David Baldry. because they are not confident with statistics and think a qualitative approach will be easier. Further. some of which have been examined in this paper. 17±31 of a single case explanatory design. The overall choice needs. of course. and may be able to enhance the quality of such work in such ways as have been outlined. Therefore. (1975) (cited in Then. rather that it is an appropriate and. Nevertheless. which may result in the support or refutation of an existing hypothesis (deduction) or a proposed one (induction). (3) A research plan must be formulated. but researchers often find it difficult to analyse the data and write up the final output. a guide for research report (outline. the purpose of this paper is not to suggest that a mixed methodology is the only suitable research design. It is important that researchers need to be aware that the choice is influenced by the nature of the research as well as the researcher's own philosophical preferences. The above review highlighted a variety of issues that a BE researcher is likely to face in . there are lessons that can be learned and some of these are discussed in this paper. issues. 2002 . research study questions (specific questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection).Quantitative and qualitative research in the built environment Dilanthi Amaratunga. adopted by the researcher. sources of information). but it is easier to conduct and write up the analysis because it is highly structured. The researcher is also careful to separate their work from that of others. Number 1 .

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