SUBJECT: Qualitative Research Methods
The continued academic tension between qualitative and quantitative inquiry has continued unabated. Scholarship since the 1980s, to redefine both paradigms, attempt to bring balance and importance of the respective contribution of both research processes. This has resulted in an interesting shift for “ensuring structure, process and rigor” from the investigator’s actions during the course of the research, to the reader of the qualitative inquiry. The emphasis on Quantitative strategies implemented during the research process has been replaced by truth value, applicability, consistency, and neutrality implemented once a study is completed. This essay argues that while reliability and validity remain appropriate concepts for attaining rigor in qualitative research the criterion used must not be borrowed from the Quantitative paradigm. Reference is primarily made to Guba 1981 to explain the alternatives. This essay argues for a clear recognition of the values of both the Qualitative and Quantitative processes showing that each offers a specific solution to research with each being judged on its own merit.
In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge. Martyn Shuttleworth (2008). On its own, however, the definition though adequate is not sufficient in an effort to show the depth and richness of the Qualitative process. For this attention is paid to Bruce Berg (2001) who clearly articulated the following: “Quality refers to the what, how, when, and where of a thing, its essence and ambience. Qualitative research thus refers to the meanings, concepts, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and descriptions of things.” The imperative, therefore, of this essay given Berg (2001) definition will be an examination of the reasons for the criticisms levelled against Qualitative Research, testing of the criticisms to ascertain validity and determining acceptance or rejection of the claim ‘Qualitative research is often said to be without structure, process and rigor.’ STRUCTURE
Research has been identified to a greater extent as purely a scientific process, the researcher is able to gather the data, after securing the sample and by way of statistical analysis make some generalisation based on that sample. The scientific process is one of systemic enquiry, series of stages and logical sequence. Almost immediately without prior knowledge of the discipline an observer will notice a strong tendency toward structure. Alfred Politz a staunch defender of quantitative research bluntly stated “If the research is not Quantitative then it could not be considered research.” The structure to which Politz and other critics refer is based on how data is handled during the qualitative research process. Admittedly, if the process was quantitative in nature then the answer to the question of organization and analysis would be easy (structure). The data would be reduced to computer readable form and entered into a database. The application of packaged statistics for the social sciences used to analyze the data utilised. Lamentably, qualitative data are not as quickly or easily handled. The common mistake made by many inexperienced or uninformed researchers is a reduction of qualitative data to symbolic numeric representations and the quantitative application of computer analysis. Berg (2001) and as Berg (1993) state, this ceases at once to be qualitative research and amounts to little more than a variation of quantitative data collection. Qualitative research although challenged at this stage is not without a workable solution and defenders. Ernest Dichter, a strong proponent of qualitative research stressed “Ten thousand times nothing is still (nothing)!” Dichter...