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Advantages of Qualitative

The purpose of qualitative data is to delve into the details
and specificities of an individual/group’s experience, to describe and analyse
the culture and behaviour of humans and to see the experience from their point
of view, to see through the eyes of the subject, allowing researchers to gain
access to information from hidden populations (Maher, L. Derrtadian, G. 2008,pp170).
Through this type of research, we can learn to understand underlying opinions
and motivations. Qualitative research allows for a close relationship between
the researcher and the subject, which can provide a rich and deep understanding
of the data collected. Qualitative researchers are usually immersed in
longitudinal studies, sustaining close relationships with the participants (Adler
1986, pp312). Qualitative researches tend to favour an approach without
specified hypotheses as it allows them to discover unexpected topics that may
become important features in their research. Cohen’s (1978) study of Whalsay
had intended on looking specifically into two topics of concern, however after
he had started the field research, he found that his formulated problems were irrelevant,
and discovered other, much more connected and important issues of interest.

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Qualitative research is based on detailed answers to open
ended questions, observations and stories based on memory and therefore takes a
considerable amount of time to analyse, which means that it usually consists of
a smaller number of participants over a longer period of time.

Different types of qualitative research

There are many different approaches to conducting
qualitative research, for example a researcher could conduct an interview,
which would consist of an interviewer and participant(s), the interviewer
asking open ended questions with the aim of obtaining information that would
relate to their particular study, gathering information from the participant’s
facial expressions, gestures, and verbal responses to questions. Ethnography is
another popular method within qualitative research, which helps the researcher
to understand how people see the world, the researchers can then develop theories
about society as an outcome, irrespective of preconceived ideas prior to research.
Observations, commonly used in schools and workplaces is the viewing of a
particular trend or phenomenon in its original setting, with the aim of
gathering data for a study. Focus groups, often used to stimulate conversation about
a topic of interest to the researchers, among a group of randomly selected people,
using this research to gather information on public opinion of a trend or
issue. Case studies, these are in-depth, often longitudinal studies of one
individual, social group, institution, or any other social component of society,
this is one of the most commonly used methods within qualitative research.
Content analysis is the identification of specified characteristics of contents
of information. This may be the best method in terms of truth as it provides
the same depth and richness of information, from diaries, documents, records
etc as they are with no knowledge of being used in research studies, however,
because of this they may not be able to provide a direct answer to a researcher’s
questions. Qualitative researchers often adopt an Interpretivist approach as
they view subjective research as the best way to achieve a rich understanding (Clarke
2009 pp.28-36) Interpretivism involves a subjective interpretation of the people
being studied, it allows the interviewer to see an individual’s views through
their personal perspective. Individual perspectives are very important within
this concept.

Disadvantages of Qualitative

When immersing oneself into qualitative research, a disadvantage
to the research may be that researchers can become so absorbed in the research
that they lose awareness of their role as a researcher and adopt the participants’
perspectives. There is a problem here of reliability, in qualitative research
there tends to be an extreme subjectivity in terms of data analysis which could
allow the researcher to interpret the findings in a particular way to achieve
certain results. There is also the risk of collecting information that is
meaningless to the research at hand, which is detrimental to the efficiency of
the research as it is time and budget consuming. Interviews for qualitative
research are usually face to face, in a room alone, or in a group. This may
affect how a person answers questions and how truthful they are, they do not
have the same cover of anonymity as they would with other methods such as questionnaires.

Advantages of Quantitative

The role of quantitative research is usually preparatory, there
is a distant, often anonymous relationship between the researcher and the subject.
It is typically to prove or disprove a theory, not to discover emergent
concepts in research. The research strategy is structured and often includes a
set number of questions that do not vary, for example, in questionnaires, structured
interviews, Longitudinal studies, experiments, official statistics, legislation,
police records etc which therefore creates hard and reliable data which is
easily replicable and repeatable. The method of conducting the research and
questions asked are set from the start of the research, this means that it is
constant in its structure and allows for a replicable study/experiment.
Quantitative data typically goes hand in hand with the concept of Positivism (Clarke,
C 2009 pp.26-38), this concept favours quantitative methods such as structured
interviews and questionnaires, and emphasises on replication and encourages
objectivity within research.

When studying groups, quantitative methods often choose
larger, randomly selected participants, as larger samples reduce the margin of
error and produce more accurate results. These samples of the public can range from
local or national to global, and allow the research to be easily applicable to
other groups within one society or across multiple. The anonymity of
questionnaires and other methods of collecting data allow participants to be
honest in answering questions without fear of judgement or ridicule, many people
may choose not to participate in studies if they know their identity will be
shown to the researcher and/or other participants, especially if the research includes
personal questions. However, many aren’t aware that their data is being used in
surveys i.e National statistics for populations, salaries, poverty etc. Quantitative
data is useful in identifying factors that influence an outcome, cause and
effect relationships such as, what is the relationship between household income
and educational attainment? It is valuable in identifying change, such as
perceptions of gender compared to the previous generation. As well as
describing how much or little there is of something, or where something is the
most popular.

Disadvantages of quantitative

Quantitative methods are very precise and provide a clear
understanding of what the research was set out to provide, however there is no
understanding of social meanings or reasons behind certain data. This method is
closed and strictly planned which disallows for opportunity for adjustment
during the research or experiment period. Some social situations are to complex
or fluctuate too often for a numerical explanation. Because quantitative data
only uses numbers and a limited about of words, it usually provides less
detailed accounts of human perception, which limits the results. The research
is usually carried out in controlled laboratory conditions which are artificial
and unnatural, this may not produce authentic results and therefore disadvantage
the research. Predetermined answers in questionnaires do not necessarily reflect
how a person feels about the topic in question, only the nearest estimate, this
creates easily analysable data however does not give a true overall view. It
can lead to a structural bias where the statistics mirror the researchers’
views rather than the subjects’.

 

Quantitative and Qualitative

The differences between the two approaches have a profound
impact on how researchers conduct their studies. Brannen, J. (1992 pp.3-37)
argues that qualitative and quantitative paradigms overlap as well as differ,
and to some extent are informed by similar logics of enquiry, however
researchers’ training and skills are impacted by the decisions they make concerning
methods of research. To create a combination between qualitative and
quantitative data seems to be the perfect solution to the downfalls of each method,
by bringing together the strengths of the two, an almost faultless method is
created. Qualitative research is seen as useful in the preparatory stages of
research projects to suppose hypotheses and theories, which can then be tested
more meticulously through quantitative methods. Ensuring a more accurate, yet deep
understanding through multiple combined methods, collecting both mathematic and
rich social data.

The distinction between the two methods are often vague, large
amounts of qualitative information can now be processed quickly with the
assistance of new technology, and detailed quantitative information can be used
to discover meaning and understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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