You are on page 1of 7

Unit 1

What is qualitative research?


Qualitative research seeks out the why, not the how of its topic through the analysis of unstructured information things like interview transcripts, emails, notes, feedback forms, photos and videos. It doesnt just rely on statistics or numbers, which are the domain of quantitative researchers. Qualitative research is used to gain insight into people's attitudes, behaviours, value systems, concerns, motivations, aspirations, culture or lifestyles. Its used to inform business decisions, policy formation, communication and research. Focus groups, indepth interviews, content analysis, ethnography, evaluation and semiotics are among the many formal approaches that are used, but qualitative research also involves the analysis of any unstructured material, including customer feedback forms, reports or media clips. Collecting and analyzing this unstructured information can be messy and time consuming using manual methods. When faced with volumes of materials, finding themes and extracting meaning can be a daunting task.

Qualitative research is a method of inquiry appropriated in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts.[1] Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often needed, rather than large samples. Qualitative methods produce information only on the particular cases studied, and any more general conclusions are only hypotheses (informative guesses). Quantitative methods can be used to verify which of such hypotheses are true.

What is quantitative research?


Quantitative research is used to measure how many people feel, think or act in a particular way. These surveys tend to include large samples - anything from 50 to any number of interviews. Structured questionnaires are usually used incorporating mainly closed questions - questions with set responses. There are various vehicles used for collecting quantitative information but the most common are on-street or telephone interviews. As opposed to qualitative research, quantitative research is mainly concerned with numbers and data easily quantified. The most popular quantitative technique is the survey, often based on a large number of cases, where a broad overview of a market is

required. Surveys can be administered by mail, telephone, face to face, or more recently by the Internet or World Wide Web. They usually take less time to complete by the respondant and most often require choosing between several responses rather than long verbal responses. In market research, surveys often aim to understand a target market better by breaking down the sample by demographics, lifestyle and usage behaviour.

Deductive reasoning
Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a "top-down" approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data -a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.

Inductive reasoning
inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a "bottom up" approach (please note that it's "bottom up" and not "bottoms up" which is the kind of thing the bartender says to customers when he's trying to close for the night!). In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories. These two methods of reasoning have a very different "feel" to them when you're conducting research. Inductive reasoning, by its very nature, is more open-ended and exploratory, especially at the beginning. Deductive reasoning is more narrow in nature and is concerned with testing or confirming hypotheses.

Even though a particular study may look like it's purely deductive (e.g., an experiment designed to test the hypothesized effects of some treatment on some outcome), most social research involves both inductive and deductive reasoning processes at some time in the project. In fact, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we could assemble the two graphs above into a single circular one that continually cycles from theories down to observations and back up again to theories. Even in the most constrained experiment, the researchers may observe patterns in the data that lead them to develop new theories.

Features of Qualitative & Quantitative Research


Qualitative "All research ultimately has a qualitative grounding" - Donald Campbell Quantitative "There's no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0" - Fred Kerlinger The aim is to classify features, count them, and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed. Researcher knows clearly in advance what he/she is looking for. Recommended during latter phases of research projects.

The aim is a complete, detailed description. Researcher may only know roughly in advance what he/she is looking for. Recommended during earlier phases of research projects.

The design emerges as the study unfolds. Researcher is the data gathering instrument. Data is in the form of words, pictures or objects. Subjective - individuals interpretation of events is important ,e.g., uses participant observation, in-depth interviews etc. Qualitative data is more 'rich', time consuming, and less able to be generalized.

All aspects of the study are carefully designed before data is collected. Researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data. Data is in the form of numbers and statistics. Objective seeks precise measurement & analysis of target concepts, e.g., uses surveys, questionnaires etc. Quantitative data is more efficient, able to test hypotheses, but may miss contextual detail.

Main Points

Qualitative research involves analysis of data such as words (e.g., from interviews), pictures (e.g., video), or objects (e.g., an artifact). Quantitative research involves analysis of numerical data. The strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research are a perennial, hot debate, especially in the social sciences. The issues invoke classic 'paradigm war'. The personality / thinking style of the researcher and/or the culture of the organization is under-recognized as a key factor in preferred choice of methods. Overly focusing on the debate of "qualitative versus quantitative" frames the methods in opposition. It is important to focus also on how the techniques can be integrated, such as in mixed methods research. More good can come of social science researchers developing skills in both realms than debating which method is superior.

Positivism
Positivism is a philosophical system first developed by Auguste Comte (1798-1857). This system maintains that knowledge is about description rather than questioning. Positivists recognise only positive facts and observable events - those things that can be seen, measured and be counted as facts. The system equates very closely with the traditional, scientific view of the world. In fact, Comte drew his ideas from the "scientific" world view that was developing at the time, and applied them to the world of sociological thought. Positivism takes little account of beliefs or feelings, although strangely some of its more extreme protagonists seem to be drawn towards mysticism.

Phenomenology
Begun by Edmund Husserl (1859 - 1938) in the 1890s, phenomenology is a very different way of viewing the world in comparison to positivism. Phenomenologists are concerned with what things mean, rather than with identifying and measuring phenomena. They are particularly interested in the idea that human experience is a valuable source of data, as opposed to the idea that true research or discovery lies in simply measuring the existence of physical phenomena.