· CONTROL: This is the most important element because it enables the scientist to identify the causes of his or her observations. Experiments are conducted in an attempt to answer certain questions. They represent attempts to identify why something happens, what causes some event, or under what conditions an event does occur. Control is necessary in order to provide unambiguous answers to such questions. To answer questions in education and social science we have to eliminate the simultaneous influence of many variables to isolate the cause of an effect. Controlled inquiry is absolutely essential to this because without it the cause of an effect could not be isolated. · OPERATIONAL DEFINITION: This means that terms must be defined by the steps or operations used to measure them. Such a procedure is necessary to eliminate any confusion in meaning and communication. Consider the statement `Anxiety causes students to score poorly in tests'. One might ask, `What is meant by anxiety?' Stating that anxiety refers to being tense or some other such term only adds to the confusion. However, stating that anxiety refers to a score over a criterion level on an anxiety scale enables others to realise what you mean by anxiety. Stating an operational definition forces one to identify the empirical referents, or terms. In this manner, ambiguity is minimised. Again, introversion may be defined as a score on a particular personality scale, hunger as so many hours since last fed, and social class as defined by occupation.
· Events can be understood adequately only if they are seen in context. Therefore, a qualitative researcher immerses her/himself in the setting. · The contexts of inquiry are not contrived; they are natural. Nothing is predefined or taken for granted. · Qualitative researchers want those who are studied to speak for themselves, to provide their perspectives in words and other actions. Therefore, qualitative research is an interactive process in which the persons studied teach the researcher about their lives. · Qualitative researchers attend to the experience as a whole, not as separate variables. The aim of qualitative research is to understand experience as unified. · Qualitative methods are appropriate to the above statements. There is no one general method. · For many qualitative researchers, the process entails appraisal about what was studied. Ely et al add the following from Sherman and Webb to their definition: Qualitative implies a direct concern with experience as it is `lived' or `felt' or `undergone' ... Qualitative research, then, has the aim of understanding experience as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it.
STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS
STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS
· Precision - through quantitative and reliable measurement · Control - through sampling and design
· Ability to produce causality statements, through the use of controlled experiments · Statistical techniques allow for sophisticated analyses
· Because of the complexity of human experience it is difficult to rule out or control all the variables; · Because of human agency people do not all respond in the same ways as inert matter in the physical sciences; · Its mechanistic ethos tends to exclude notions of freedom, choice and moral responsibility; · Quantification can become an end in itself.
· It fails to take account of people's unique ability to interpret their experiences, construct their own meanings and act on these. · It leads to the assumption that facts are true and the same for all people all of the time. · Quantitative research often produces banal and trivial findings of little consequence due to the restriction on and the controlling of variables. · It is not totally objective because the researcher is subjectively involved in...
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