By Deborah Sitorus
One of the ways to gain knowledge is by carrying out some research. As what Zacharia (2012) stated that in daily life most people conduct research to gain knowledge. A research can be carried out qualitatively or quantitatively depends on the research purposes and needs and the type of information the researcher is seeking. My concern in this essay is to briefly share my understandings about basic concepts of qualitative research that I gained from my readings on some books on qualitative research methods as well as from the class discussion with lecturer and colleagues on qualitative research course at the university. The basic concepts of qualitative research that will be discussed here cover the definition of qualitative research based on some authors, the characteristics of qualitative research contrasted to quantitative research, the strengths and weakness of qualitative research, and it follow the discussion of the importance of qualitative research in English language teaching. A. DEFINITION OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
The qualitative research methods are often employed to answer the whys and hows of human behavior, opinion, and experience-information that is difficult to obtain through more quantitatively-oriented methods of data collection. Researchers and practitioners in fields as diverse as anthropology, education, nursing, psychology, sociology, and marketing regularly use qualitative methods to address questions about people’s ways of organizing, relating to, and interacting with the world. There are about as many definitions of qualitative research as there are books on the subject. Some authors highlight the research purpose and focus: Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how people make sense of their world and the experiences they have in the world. (Merriam, 2009, p. 13) Another definitions focus on the process and context of data collection: Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that makes the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 3) From those definitions, it is obvious that a qualitative research has the aim in providing an in-depth and interpreted understanding of the social world of research participants by learning about their social and material circumstances, their experiences, perspectives and histories. (Snape and Spencer, 2003). The study also uses rigorous procedures and multiple methods for data collection which make the data real, rich and deep (Cohen, 2007).
B. QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PARADIGMS
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 views within which been conducted from a large number of various paradigms that influence conceptual and meta-theoretical concerns of legitimacy, control, data analysis, ontology, and epistemology among others. Research conducted in the last 10 years has been characterized by a distinct turn toward more interpretive, post-modern, and critical practices (Joubish et al, 2011). Guba and Lincoln (2005) identify five main paradigms of contemporary qualitative research: Positivism, Post-positivism, critical theories, constructivism, and parcipatory/cooperative paradigm....