Quantitative Vs. Qualitative Research Methods

Comparison of Qualitative and Quantitative

The term ‘paradigm’ comes from the Greek word ‘paradeigma’ which roughly translated means to show or point out. Paradigms can be defined as a set of concepts or thought patterns which dictate the kind of direction research should take and how research should be performed.
But in a broader sense, paradigms can be considered as the basic worldview which provides its holders with answers to their ontological, epistemological, and methodological questions. In this definition mentioned above, an ontological question can basically be referred to as a question of what is the form or nature of reality and what all can be known about that reality. Epistemological question is instead the question that brings up the kind of relationship which exists between the knower and the inquirer. This question also addresses what all can be known. And as the name suggests, the methodological question is basically addressing the question regarding the procedure which would be followed by the inquirer while finding out all that can be known. All of these questions form the foci through which all the paradigms are analyzed. In this academic writing piece, readers will be able to learn about different research paradigm, approaches to research, methods for collecting and analyzing data, and about paradigm comparison.

The Approaches to Research: Quantitative Approach Vs. Qualitative Approach

There are also a number of debates surrounding the topic of conceptualizing paradigms while doing research. And one of the biggest debates is that of the qualitative research vs. quantitative research distinction. To understand this debate in better light it is first important to understand both of these distinctions in paradigms which are.

The Qualitative Distinction
According to Punch (1998), qualitative research is a type of empirical research which is not in the form of numbers. This multi-method research takes up a naturalistic and interpretive approach while understanding the subject. There are also different qualitative research methods like ethnography, open-ended questionnaires, documents, participant observation, diary accounts, and unstructured interviews. According to various psychologists, qualitative research methods allow researchers to learn about the participant in greater detail. This is also the method which tries hard to capture the complexity of human nature and the mind by not reducing various components of a human to some mere numbers. However, in the majority of the cases qualitative research is subjective to various biases that are held by the researcher. Different psychologists can interpret a single qualitative data in a number of different manners. Validity, reliability and bias are also topics which are related to this one.

The Quantitative Distinction
Quantitative research has a numerical feature to it as it tries to translate various psychological components into simple numbers. There are a number of researchers who label this method as the ‘most scientific’ method of conducting any study. But there are also a number of psychologists who believe that by taking up a quantitative research method a researcher reduce the rich human psychological components into just numbers. This reduces the richness of human nature and fails to capture the true meaning of psychological concepts. In this research method, data is collected by measuring things and the analysis is done with the help of numerical comparison and statistical inferences. Behaviorists used different quantitative research methods extensively. Validity, reliability and bias are also topics which are related to this one.

A paradigm could consist either of a qualitative approach or a quantitative research one. Both of these approaches have their own merits and demerits. Hence, it is important for a researcher to follow a paradigm which is suitable for the study that he or she might be conducting. In this academic writing piece, readers will also be able to learn about research paradigm comparison. The question of validity also depends upon the research which the researcher wishes to conduct.

A Detailed Discussion into the Topic Research Paradigm

There are also a number of different research paradigms. And some of those research paradigms are:

This research paradigm is based on the basic idea which was given by August Comte who was a French philosopher. According to him, human behavior can only be understood through research and observation. That is why experiments must consist of verified data or positive facts which can be received from the senses and are also known as empirical evidence. The ways in which this paradigm comparison answers the various questions are:

  • Ontology: According to this paradigm, an apprehensible reality exists which is driven by mechanisms and natural laws. Knowledge also exists in the form of some cause and effect laws.
  • Epistemology: In this paradigm comparison, it is assumed that both the investigator and the ‘object’ of the investigation are two separate entities. This would ensure that the researcher can study the subject of the research without affecting it any possible way. And if the object of the study is being influenced in any way then that can be reduced by taking specific measures.
  • Methodology: In this paradigm, a hypothesis is stated which is then subjected to different empirical tests. The results of the study are then analyzed and the hypothesis would either be proven true or false.
  • Postpositivism
    This model of scientific inquiry is also known as postempiricism and it is a theoretical stance which critiques and amends positivism. In this research paradigm approach, it is believed that the knowledge, value, theories, and background of the researcher can actually influence the study. This approach tries to achieve objectivity by recognizing all possible biases and then eliminating them. This approach considers both quantitative research and qualitative research methods to be valid methods of conducting research. The ways in which the various questions are answered in this paradigm comparison are:
  • Ontology: In this paradigm, a reality exists but this reality can only be known in an imperfect manner. The ontology is labeled as being critical realism because of the fact that the reality can be understood with the help of the wildest claims but it can never fully be known with absolute certainty.
  • Epistemology: In this paradigm, the research basically starts with preexisting ideas. It is subjected to the critical community in the form of review by professional peers, editors, or other individuals. It is further believed that findings which are replicated are probably true but they can still be falsified. The idea of objective truth is maintained in this paradigm.
  • Methodology: Enquiry is done in a naturalistic setting which then results in the researcher acquiring some sort of data. This data is then analyzed which would eventually result in the researcher finding out some ‘grounded theory’. Qualitative research techniques are used largely in this paradigm.
  • Critical Theory

This research paradigm was largely developed by Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse. This approach was also developed in response to the works of Hegel, Kant, Weber, and Marx. The way in which this paradigm answers the three main questions are:

  • Ontological: In this approach, it is assumed that there is a reality. This reality was earlier plastic in nature but it eventually it is shaped and apprehensible with the help of different social, cultural, economic, political, gender-based, and ethnic factors. For all practical purposes, the structures of virtual or historical reality are real.
  • Epistemological: In this approach, it is believed that a relationship exists between both the investigator and what is being investigated. Hence, the findings of the research are value mediated.
  • Methodological: In this approach, the experiments must be conducted in a manner where a dialogue must take place between the participant of the study and the researcher. This dialogue is dialectal in nature and further transforms all misapprehensions and ignorance. This approach also recognizes the positive aspects of objectivity.

These are all the major approaches which come under the topic of the research paradigm. And if readers wish to learn about validity then he or she can refer to other academic writing pieces.

The Conclusion:

Paradigm is a Greek word which basically dictates the direction which research should take or how one should perform research. The biggest debate surrounding the topic of paradigm is of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Qualitative research methods do not deal with number and statistics while quantitative research methods do. There are also many research paradigms. The major research paradigms are positivism, postpositivism, and critical theory. Validity plays an important role in all research methods.

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