Quantitative Qualitative Research

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In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative research methods, discussing the Epistemology, methodology, and the varying techniques each method uses. The essay will also take a brief look at the Ethical considerations of research using relevant psychology examples. Here, when considering the epistemology behind both research methods, we must see it in terms of our essential philosophy of ideas and concepts and the ways in which it can be shaped (Pidgeon & Henwood, 1997, p. 247). The methodology behind the approaches looks at the requirements to carrying out successful research (Fox, 2011, slide 3). Arguably, one of the major differences between the two would be the methods involved in applying both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. This essay will take a look at these differences and how it affects the outcome of the research and the information produced.

The epistemology of these two approaches to social research demonstrates a very clear dividing line between Qualitative and Quantitative research methods. The idea behind Quantitative research follows this progression of the ‘natural sciences’ (Neuman, 2006, p.7). Quantitative researchers believe that there is the possibility to describe our reality and to employ an unbiased approach to research. Quantitative research follows the idea of scientific knowledge as a more reformed way of understanding and acquiring knowledge (Fox, 2011, slide 7). On the contrary, Qualitative research follows this growing trend in post-modernism, where scientific problems and claims can and should be challenged. This interpretive social science approach looks at how our understanding of life as we know it is constructed, and that knowledge is tied to power (Fox, 2011, slide 19-21).

There are aspects of qualitative and quantitative research methods that carry quite substantial differences. Within social scientific research, there are three predominant approaches that can be employed (Neuman, 2006 pp. 81-94). These approaches are Positivist Social Science; of which quantitative research falls within, Interpretive Social Science where qualitative approaches belong, and Critical Social Science. Neuman (2006)states that whilst a positivist will use the research methods as a means for a more methodical and mathematical approach to their research, an interpretive researcher may spend vast amounts of time looking closely at more intimate and in-depth qualitative data to gain an informed knowledge of how the subject produces a meaningful life (p.88). The methodology behind the two varies greatly, producing different information with the outcomes of the research. Neuman (2006) states, that if you consider these two approaches in terms of their ultimate purpose, quantitative research aims to research and record casual laws of our behaviour, and qualitative research aims to gain an understanding of our social life in terms of the way we build ideas and meanings in our natural environment (p.88).

Whilst Quantitative research will employ sample sizes on a much larger scale, Qualitative research will use far smaller sample sizes. This variance in sample sizes ultimately affects the results of the research. The quantitative research will produce results that can be, and should be, replicated to achieve a duplicate result each time. The outcome of this type of research may result in generalisations being made about the area of study. These generalisations can apply to larger groups, or even sub-groups if they signify the entirety of a specific population (Burton et al. 2009, p.40). There are problems involved with having a larger sample size, and the mathematical approach quantitative research employs. Neuman (2006, p.82) also states that this approach reduces the subjects involved in the research to a bunch of numbers and mathematical formulas, and this impersonal approach could never apply to real life and the people involved. The...
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