Qualitative Paradigm

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The Qualitative Paradigm
The design of a research study begins with the selection of a topic and a paradigm. A paradigm is essentially a worldview, a whole framework of beliefs, values and methods within which research takes place. It is this world view within which researchers work. According to Cresswell (1994) "A qualitative study is defined as an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problem, based on building a complex, holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of informants, and conducted in a natural setting.  

Alternatively a quantitative study, consistent with the quantitative paradigm, is an inquiry into a social or human problem, based on testing a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analyzed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the predictive generalizations of the theory hold true." The paradigm framework is made up of:

P Philosophy
O Ontology
E Epistemology
M Methodology
(Source: University of Sheffield)
A summary of the scientific paradigm (Quantitative) might be: P Scientific materialism
O Laws of nature
E Measurable and observable ‘proof’
M Experiment, large scale data collection, quantitative analysis  
A summary of the Humanistic/Post Modern paradigm might be summarized as: P Homocentric reality as a social construct, contextual verities O The nature of the psyche, of perception, creativity, intelligence E self verified evidence, grounded theory, recorded testimony M Phenomenology, ethnography, depth interviews

Key Distinctions between Qualitative and Quantitative Research  
(1) Words and numbers
Qualitative research places emphasis on understanding through looking closely at people's words, actions and records. The traditional or quantitative approach to research looks past these words, actions and records to their mathematical significance. The traditional approach to research (quantifies) the results of these observations. In contrast qualitative research examines the patterns of meaning which emerge from the data and these are often presented in the participants' own words. The task of the qualitative researcher is to find patterns within those words (and actions) and to present those patterns for others to inspect while at the same time staying as close to the construction of the world as the participants originally experienced it. (2) Perspectival (Subjective) versus objective views

(3) Discovery versus proof
The goal of qualitative research is to discover patterns which emerge after close observation, careful documentation, and thoughtful analysis of the research topic. What can be discovered by qualitative research are not sweeping generalizations but contextual findings. This process of discovery is basic to the philosophic underpinning of the qualitative approach.  

Definitions of Qualitative Research
Denzin and Lincoln (1994) define qualitative research:
Qualitative research is multi-method in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials case study, personal experience, introspective, life story interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts-that describe routine and problematic moments and meaning in individuals' lives. Cresswell (1994) defines it as:

Qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in a natural setting.  

Characteristics of Qualitative Research
1. An exploratory and Descriptive focus
2. Emergent Design...
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