Psychological Research Methods: Exploring Qualitative and Quantitative Research
In psychology, answers to our questions are not as succinct as in other types of sciences, and the findings essentially depend upon the underlying epistemology used. This essay seeks to define and examine the fields of qualitative and quantitative research. It will address the different epistemologies and methodologies of each paradigm, and aim to give you a brief overview of the two main research methods underlying scientific knowledge. Qualitative research is often only defined in contrast to Quantitative research; That is, it does not involve statistics, nor does it depend on the level of objectivity that characterises the quantitative approach. While quantitative research aims to categorise participants in numerical form by creating statistical models to answer specific hypothesises; Qualitative research does not start with a specific hypothesis, instead it seeks to understand behaviours, and experiences (McQueen & Knussen, 2013, p.422). Qualitative researchers tend to operate under different epistemological beliefs than that of quantitative researchers. Unlike quantitative researchers who use fixed instruments with little flexibility, Qualitative researchers allow questions to emanate and reshape themselves as the research unfolds (Krauss, 2005, p. 759). The qualitative researcher is engaged in the world they investigate, creating an unstructured and reflective element to the research, where the researchers’ knowledge, emotive interactions, and past experiences all form a part of the research (Ponterotto, 2010, p.583). According to Guba and Lincoln (as cited in Ponterotto, 2005, p.128) there are four main research paradigms: postpositivism, constructivism-interpretivism and the critical-ideological and positivism perspective. Of these four paradigms, positivism is solely adopted in the quantitative approach, whereas the three remaining paradigms are utilised in the qualitative approach (Ponterotto, 2010, p.581). Postpositivism is based on critical realism, and uses traditional qualitative methods, in as quantifiable manner as is possible. Postpositivists believe that although there is a reality independent of human consciousness, one can never truly capture an objective view of this reality (Ponterotto, 2005, p.129). Postpositivists maintain that although the researcher may have some influence on the research, the maintenance of objectivity remains crucial in the research process (Ponterotto, 2005, p.131). Whilst the postpositive paradigm adopts a modified dualist/objectivist approach, the constructivism-interpretivism paradigm is based on relativism. Constructivists consider reality to be experienced differently by each individual, as opposed to being an external and singular reality. (Ponterotto, 2005, p.129). Ponterotto (2005) considers the constructivist paradigm as transactional and subjective, making the interaction between the researcher and participant cardinal in capturing the “lived experience”; with the researcher and participant, together, construct the findings from their interactions (Ponterotto, 2005, p.129-131). Like constructivists, the criticalists conclude that reality is constructed within a social-historical context, the difference being, that criticalists conceive reality through power relations and use their research to understand victims of oppression and seek to uncover structures of power (Ponterotto, 2005, p.130-131). The researcher’s values play a key role, as participant empowerment and emancipation are the researcher’s goal. Relationships between researchers and participants are subjective and transactional with the relationship being dialectic in nature (Ponterotto, 2005, p.130-131). In contrast to the qualitative paradigms, the main feature of quantitative research is that it mirrors the natural sciences by adopting a positivist approach which is dualist and...
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