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Quantitative Research

By marceljames Mar 13, 2011 1088 Words
Topic: Quantitative Research

When conducting political science research, the researcher has to follow a particular series of step. The particular sequence is dependent on the type of social research, whether Quantitative or Qualitative. According to Burns and Grove (1997), Quantitative research is a formal, objective, systematic process in which numerical data are utilised to obtain information about the world. It can also be defined as a research process involving the collection, analysis and interpretation of numerical data to identify statistical relation of variables. This political science research model originated in the natural sciences and has its philosophical roots based on the tenets of positivism. Positivism is a compilation of “epistemological perspectives and philosophies of science” put forward by Auguste Comte in the 19th century. It contends that the scientific method (experiment and observation) is the optimal strategy for unearthing substantial knowledge. The main objective of the quantitative research model is to determine the relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable in a population. It carried out for the purpose of causal explanation, prediction and for generalisability. The research design of quantitative studies are based on the logic of experimentation and is usually concerned with control groups, pre-tests or other elements of experimental design. In some cases, certain factors are held constant for the purpose of making casual inferences. The quantitative approach is descriptive (subjects measured once), quasi- experimental or experimental (subjects measured before and after a treatment). The descriptive study establishes associations between variables while the experimental and quasi-experimental studies are designed to examine causality. Quantitative research is systematic and is thought to be objective. This arises due to the notion that through collecting, interpreting and analysing quantitative data, the researcher can remain detached and objective. Whereas, in qualitative research, this might not be possible as the researcher might get involved in the situation of the research. For example, if the Jamaican government was conducting a study on the waiting times for voting, the quantitative researcher would measure how long people wait and would completely be objective while the qualitative researcher would want to investigate how individuals feel about waiting in voting lines and would have to come into contact with participant and make judgement about the way they answered the questions as well as register their non- verbal behaviours and document responses. By this, the researcher is adding a subjective element. Quantitative research is also conceived to be deductive and particularistic. That is, it tests theory and it is based upon formulating the research hypotheses and verifying them empirically. Using the example of waiting to vote, the quantitative approach would test the hypothesis, “Voters do not wait for more than one hour before voting.” Whereas, the quantitative approach will explore the feelings of the voters and generate the theory, “voters become violent after waiting more than one hour.” Providing that the quantitative model was carried out in an appropriate manner, using suitable sampling techniques in which the sample chosen exactly represents the population, the results tend to hold true and can be generalized. Emphasis is placed on rigour in this type of research and adherence to research designs and precise statistical analyses. In addition, this type of research uses data that are structured in the form of numbers or data that can be easily manipulated using computer software. In Quantitative research, the researcher commences with a general area or issue, such as Politics, Economics etc. then, narrows this broad subject down to a research question. For Example, ‘To what extent do the media foster political participation among university students? Afterwards, the researcher takes a stance or makes an assumption – he creates a Hypothesis. For Example: ‘there is a strong statistical relation between political participation and the media.’ Now, the researcher designs the study. Decisions are made as to the type of quantitative study whether descriptive, quasi-experimental or experimental, what type of sampling techniques, how pertinent factors should be measured and what research methodologies to employ. Data is then collected; information is verified and carefully recorded then transferred into computer-readable format. Subsequently, the data or numbers are manipulated again, using computer software to charts, graphs, tables etc. the researcher is left with quantities of computer generated output or a “condensed picture of data.” By looking at the analyzed data, utilizing background knowledge and drawing on theory, the original question is answered. Alternative interpretation of data must also be considered and results compared to previous studies to withdraw its wider implications. Later, a report is written about the findings in a specific format and description of the study presented to professional audiences. The quantitative approach has both advantages and disadvantages. Many social scientists purports that this model is an excellent way of finalizing results and proving or disproving a hypothesis. Additionally, this research filters out external factors and results gained can be seen as real and unbiased. This approach also leads to high levels of reliability of gathered data due to controlled observation, mass survey etc. The statistical analysis involved allows for generalization when a sample chosen that closely resembles the population. Also, the statistical analyses allows for comprehensive results that can be discussed and published. Although quantitative data is said to be more efficient and able to test hypothesis, it may miss contextual detail. Additionally, outcomes are limited only to those outlined in the original research proposal due to closed type questions and the structured format With the increased number of participants it is not possible to have depth of knowledge about each participant. In other words, it lacks the ability to interact with the research subjects in their own language, on their own terms and so does not provides a holistic view of the phenomenon under investigation. These types of researches tend to be difficult and expensive. They require a lot of time and must be carefully planned to ensure complete randomization and correct designation of control groups. They also require extensive statistical analyses which can be tedious for non-mathematicians.

Bibliography

* Gall, M. D., Borg, W. R., Gall, J. P. (2003).  Educational Research: An Introduction. (7th Edition). White Plains, New York: Longman. 

* Neuman, W.L. (2006). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Boston: Pearson Education

* Sauvage, G. (1911). Positivism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.Retrieved September 25, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12312c.htm

* Schostak, J. & McBride, R. (2003). Qualitative versus Quantitative Research. Manchester Metropolitan University. Retrieved September 25,2010 from: http://www.enquirylearning.net/ELU/Issues/Research/Res1Ch2.html

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