Comparing and Contrasting Qualitative and Quantitative Social Research Methodology

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INTRODUCTION
Social research is conducted using a logical and systematic process that can be carried out for numerous reasons and it is concerned with the empirical study of social phenomena. The purpose of conducting such research is to enhance knowledge of how the social world operates through the study of human behaviour and investigates how humans interact with others in society. Research in general, is usually conducted by adopting either a qualitative or quantitative approach (Henn et al, 2006). The approaches taken and the decisions that are made by qualitative and quantitative researchers differ with respect to their epistemological position and ontological assumptions and these assumptions orientate the research strategies in a direction that will be most appropriate in developing their research methodologies (Bryman, 2004). This assignment will identify and describe how the different methodologies are decided for qualitative and quantitative research studies and how the methodological decisions are influenced by the researcher’s philosophical views of the world. Reference will be made to the contrasting paradigms, epistemologies, the ontological perspectives and the philosophical views that both qualitative and quantitative researchers use as the foundations for conducting their research. This assignment will then move on to outline the strengths and weaknesses that can be present within the different methodologies used when designing a research project. Finally, the assignment will place emphasis on, and consider the implications that can arise from ethical issues within social research practices and will discuss ways in which to minimise ethical situations arising in qualitative and quantitative research. This assignment will conclude with a brief overview and discussion on the range of different methodologies used and will specify if one approach is takes precedence over the other. Qualitative and quantitative approaches to research

Before a research study can even begin to be put together, a research question needs to be developed that is capable of being researched through the researcher’s preferred approach, either qualitative or quantitative. The process of designing a research project can then begin. The selection of a research process is well thought out with many academics and researchers opting to utilise the framework introduced by Crotty (1998), who suggests that adopting this four-element approach is fundamental to the research process and should be considered as a starting point when devising a research strategy. This framework can be applied to both qualitative and quantitative research and asks the researcher to consider four questions: “What epistemology? What theoretical perspective? What methodology? What methods?” (Crotty, 1998, p.2). Answering these questions will shape the essence of the research project and as (Creswell, 2003) states: It is these questions that identify the inter-related levels of decisions that go into the process of designing research. The point that Creswell is emphasising here, is that this first stage of designing a research project is determined by these answers which are needed to determine the most appropriate research strategy to use and in this order; 1) the researcher’s ontological assumptions about how knowledge is claimed are embedded in their epistemological perspectives. 2) These assumptions and perspectives of the individual researcher will determine which methodologies will be adopted. 3) The methodology adopted will determine which methods will be used (Henn et al, 2006). This framework will then provide the researcher with a solid foundation to build a well-structured and organised research study. Paradigms hold great significance to a researcher and contain a set of beliefs or assumptions that guide their inquiry into social phenomena (Gelo et al, 2008). The range of theoretical perspectives that are primarily concerned with qualitative research...
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