Qualitative and Quantitative Orientations toward Research
•One of the differences between the two styles comes from the nature of the data.
•Soft-data: in the form of impressions, words, sentences, photos, symbols, and so forth – dictate different research strategies and data-collection
techniques than hard data, which are in the form of numbers.
•Qualitative researchers often rely on interpretive or critical social science, follow a nonlinear research path, and speak a language of “cases and
contexts.” They emphasize detailed examinations of cases that arise in the natural flow of social life.
•Quantitative researchers rely on a positivist approach to social science. They follow a linear research path, speak a language of “variables and
hypotheses,” and emphasize measuring variables and testing hypotheses that are linked to general causal explanations.
Linear and Nonlinear Paths
•Linear: research that proceeds in a clear, logical, step-by-step straight line. It is more characteristic of a quantitative than a qualitative approach to
•Nonlinear research path: research that proceeds in a circular, back and forth manner. It’s more characteristic of a qualitative than a quantitative
style to social research. With each cycle or repetition, a research collects new data and gains new insights. A cyclical path is suited for tasks such
as translating languages, where delicate shades of meaning, subtle connotations, or contextual distinctions can be important.
Preplanned and emergent research questions
•First step to being a project is to select a topic. Then narrow it to a focused research question. Qualitative and quantitative researchers tend to
adopt different approaches to turn a topic into a focused research questions for a specific study.
•Qualitative researchers begin with vague/unclear research questions and the topic emerges slowly during the study.
•Qualitative research style is flexible and encourages slowly focusing the topic throughout the study. Uses early data collection to guyde how they
adjust the research question
•Quantitative researchers narrow a topic into a focused question as a discrete planning step before finalizing the study design.
•Quantitative researchers focus on a specific research problem within a broad topic.
•Limitations include time, costs, access to resources, approval by authorities, ethical concerns, and expertise. Access to resources too.
Qualitative design issues
•The language of cases and contexts: they rarely use variables or test hypotheses, or try to convert social life into numbers.
•Researchers examine motifs, themes, distinctions and ideas. They also use the inductive approach of GROUNDED THEORY
•GROUNDED THEORY: a researcher builds theory by making comparisons. Based on observations of an event, always looking for similarities and
differences. This theory isn’t used by all qualitative researchers though.
•They hold that the meaning of social action/statement depends on the context in which it appears.
•They examine the same case of set of cases over time.
•Explanations or interpretations are complex and come in the form of an unfolding plot or a narrative story about particular people or events.
•They pay attention to what happens, first, second, third and so on.
•Their results end up being more meaningful because they try to make their data understandable to other people