Essay about Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches

2301 Words Feb 21st, 2013 10 Pages
QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES
TO SOCIAL RESEARCH

Christina Hughes

C.L.Hughes@warwick.ac.uk

There has been widespread debate in recent years within many of the social sciences regarding the relative merits of quantitative and qualitative strategies for research. The positions taken by individual researchers vary considerably, from those who see the two strategies as entirely separate and based on alternative views of the world, to those who are happy to mix these strategies within their research projects. For example, Bryman (1988) argued for a `best of both worlds' approach and suggested that qualitative and quantitative approaches should be combined. Hughes (1997), nevertheless, warns that such technicist solutions
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It tends to emphasize relatively large-scale and representative sets of data, and is often, falsely in our view, presented or perceived as being about the gathering of `facts'. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is concerned with collecting and analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible. It tends to focus on exploring, in as much detail as possible, smaller numbers of instances or examples which are seen as being interesting or illuminating, and aims to achieve `depth' rather than `breadth'. (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 1996: 61)

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QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

· 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

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