Qualitative and Quantitative Research Approaches

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Sports fandom consists of cognitive and affective, as well as behavioural components. Existing sports fan research utilises either strong qualitative, or more often, strong quantitative methodologies. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach 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 sports fan. Introduction

Although interest in the sports fan dates back to the beginning of this century, there is little empirical research on the subject (Burca, Brannick, & Meenaghan, 1996; Duke, 1991; Wann & Hamlet, 1995). Existing work has tended to favour quantitative methodologies (such as Branscombe & Wann, 1991, 1992; Hirt, Zillman, Erickson, & Kennedy, 1992; Iso-Ahola, 1980; Lee, 1980; Madrigal, 1995; Miller, 1976; Schurr, Wittig, Ruble, & Ellen, 1987; SNCCFR, 1996; 1997; Wakefield & Sloan, 1995; Wann & Branscombe, 1993). By contrast, qualitative research on the sports fan is extremely rare (such as Armstrong, 1998; Dunning, Murphy, Williams, 1987; King, 1997; Marsh, Rosser, & Harre, 1978). Although some investigations do show elements of combining qualitative and quantitative methods, few, if any, existing studies of the sports fan adopt the mixed methods approach as an explicit research strategy. This paper argues that such an approach is a worthwhile means for gaining a fuller understanding of the sports fan.

The choice of research design must be appropriate to the subject under investigation (Patton, 1987). Thus, the nature of sports fandom will have implications for the choice of suitable methodology. Those authors who define sports fandom (Branscombe & Wann, 1992; Guttman, 1986; Pooley, 1978) all stress that cognitive and affective, as well as behavioural components are significant. These dimensions are also noted by other authors ( Lee & Zeiss, 1980; Madrigal 1995; Miller, 1976), and summarised by Pooley (1978, p. 14), who states that

whereas a spectator of sport will observe a spectacle and forget it very quickly, the fan continues his interest until the intensity of feeling toward the team becomes so great that parts of every day are devoted to either his team or in some instances, to the broad realm of the sport itself. It seems reasonable to suggest, therefore, that fandom comprises more than simply attending and observing a sporting event. Rather, being a fan "represents an association from which the individual derives considerable emotional and value significance" (Madrigal, 1995, pp. 209-210). This acknowledgement that sports fandom consists of more than overt behaviour has important implications for the choice of research methodology.

Quantitative Research and the Sports Fan
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, 1994, p. 121). Quantitative investigations look for "distinguishing characteristics, elemental properties and empirical boundaries" (p. 121) and tend to measure "how much", or "how often" (Nau, 1995). They are appropriate to examine the behavioural component of sports fandom, such as attendance at games.

A quantitative research design allows flexibility in the treatment of data, in terms of comparative analyses, statistical analyses, and repeatability of data collection in order to verify reliability. The advantages of a quantitative approach are demonstrated by the research carried out into the English "Premier League" football fan (SNCCFR, 1996, 1997). This survey- based study produced broad data across a large fan population at Premier League clubs, allowing the behavioural patterns of the English...
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