Qualitative research

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Qualitative research is one of the two major approaches to research methodology in social sciences. Qualitative research involves an indepth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern human behaviour. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research relies on reasons behind various aspects of behaviour. Simply put, it investigates the why and how of decision making, as compared to what, where, and when of quantitative research. Hence, the need is for smaller but focused samples rather than large and random samples.

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[edit] Differences between qualitative and quantitative research

  1. Qualitative research develops theories whereas quantitative tests theories as well as develops them
  2. Qualitative research describes meaning or discovery whereas quantitative establishes relationship or causation
  3. In qualitative research the researcher is explicitly a part of the data gathering process whereas in quantitative, the researcher is formally an independent entity
  4. Qualitative research uses communication and observation whereas quantitative research uses instruments
  5. Qualitative research uses unstructured data collection whereas quantitative research uses structured data collection

Another way to describe these differences is cited by [Pamela Maykut, Richard Morehouse]:

  1. Qualitative approaches use multiple realities which can only be understood by the intersecting socio-psychological contructions. Quantitative approaches have one reality created from dividing and studying parts of an entity.
  2. Qualitative approaches have interdependency between the knower and the known. Quantitative approaches believe true objectivity exists because the knower can be studied outside of the known.
  3. Qualitative approaches have non-numerical values that mediate and shape what is understood. Quantitative approaches believe that non-numerical values can be ignored or otherwise rendered unimportant.
  4. Qualitative approaches involves multidirectional relationships where events shape each other. Quantitative approaches claim that a preceding event can be said to cause a following event.
  5. Qualitative approaches have only tentative explanations for one time and one place. Quantitative approaches believe that explanations can be generalized to other times and places.
  6. Qualitative approaches seek to discover or uncover hypotheses. Quantitative approaches generally seeks verification or proof of hypotheses.

The term qualitative research has different meanings in different fields, with the social science usage the most well-known. In the social sciences, qualitative research is often a broad term that describes research focusing on how individuals and groups view and understand the world and construct meanings out of their experiences. It essentially is narrative-oriented and uses content analysis methods on selected levels of communication content. Some researchers consider it simply to be research whose goal is not to estimate statistical parameters but to generate hypotheses that can be tested quantitatively.

In statistics, qualitative analysis consists of procedures that use categorical data that concern classifications. An important subfield is the analysis of dichotomous data – data which can take only the values 0 (zero) and 1 (one). These techniques are suitable where events or entities can only be counted or classified rather than measured on a higher level. The techniques themselves are, of course, numerically based.

In climate research, qualitative reconstructions of past temperatures rely on records of events such as frost fairs which indicate periods of cold or warmth, but give little or no information as to the degree of temperature variation. Other indicators – dates of harvest, first flowering of plants, and the like – produce information somewhere between qualitative and quantitative.

[edit] History

"Qualitative research methods also began at the margins of acceptable science. From Freud on, ... Carl Rogers (1942; 1951) ... Piaget ... Mary Ainsworth (1979)."<ref>Pamela Maykut, Richard Morehouse</ref>

Qualitative research approaches began to gain recognition in the 1970s. The phrase 'qualitative research' was until then marginalized as a discipline of anthropology or sociology, and terms like ethnography, fieldwork, participant observation and Chicago school (sociology) were used instead. During the 1970s and 1980s qualitative research began to be used in other disciplines, and became a dominant - or at least significant - type of research in the fields of women's studies, disability studies, education studies, social work studies, information studies, management studies, nursing service studies, human service studies and others. In the late 1980s and 1990s after a spate of criticisms from the quantitative side, new methods of qualitative research have been designed, to address the problems with reliability and imprecise modes of data analysis.<ref>Taylor, 1998</ref>

[edit] Overview

In the social sciences, qualitative research is a broad term that describes research that focuses on how individuals and groups view and understand the world and construct meaning out of their experiences. Qualitative research methods are sometimes used together with quantitative research methods to gain deeper understanding of the causes of social phenomena, or to help generate questions for further research. Unlike quantitative methods, qualitative research methods place little importance on developing statistically valid samples, or on searching for statistical support for hypotheses.

Instead, qualitative research focuses on the understanding of research phenomena in situ, within their naturally-occurring context(s). One aim of the qualitative researcher is to tease out the meaning(s) the phenomena have for the actors or participants. Quantitative studies, however, may also observe phenomena in situ and address issues of meaning, and one criticism of this approach to qualitative research is that the definitions offered of it do not distinguish it adequately from quantitative research (for more on this issue, and about the debate over the merits of qualitative and quantitative approaches, see qualitative psychological research).

Generally (though there are exceptions), qualitative research studies rely on three basic data gathering techniques: participant observation, interview, and social artifact (usually, documents) content analysis.<ref>Wolcott, 1995, 1999</ref> Each of these techniques represents a continuum of from less to more structured.<ref>Adler & Adler, 1987; DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002</ref> Various studies or particular techniques may rely more heavily on one data gathering technique or another.

Epistemologically qualitative methods insist that we should not invent the viewpoint of the actor, and should only attribute to them ideas about the world they actually hold, in order that we can truly understand their motives, reasons and actions.<ref>Becker, 1996</ref>

[edit] Applications

Though it had its genesis in the fields of journalism, anthropology, and sociology, qualitative research has burgeoned into and been taken up by many fields. Anthropology contributed to the field with its development of the research method of ethnography — a type of cultural translation.<ref>Boas, 1943; Malinowski, 1922/1961</ref> Qualitative research in sociology, especially in the U.S., has its roots in the Chicago School<ref>Adler & Adler, 1987</ref>

Some of the different methods included under this umbrella of qualitative research include: ethnography, ethnology, oral life history, case study, focus groups, conversation analysis, and portraiture.

Qualitative research has gained in popularity, especially due to the linguistic or subjective turn taking hold across the globe (Giddens, 1990). The social sciences, especially, as well as laypeople, have more readily accepted a subjective (as opposed to an objective or objectivist) ontology. Its practitioners often believe that qualitative research is especially well-suited to getting at the subjective qualities of the lived world, although this belief is far from universally accepted.

Many forms of qualitative analysis are labour-intensive. A number of software packages have been developed with the aim of reducing the load and systematising the task. Commercially available packages include Qualrus, Atlas.ti, NVivo, and NUD*ist; open source or free packages include AnSWR homepage and Transana.

Because of its emphasis on in-depth knowledge and the elaboration of images and concepts, qualitative methods have been viewed as particularly useful to areas of social research such as "giving voice" to marginalized groups, formulation of new interpretations of historical and cultural significance of various events, and advancing theory, as in-depth, empirical qualitative studies may capture important facts missed by more general, quantitative studies. Such investigations usually focus on a primary case, on the commonalities among separate instances of the same phenomenon identified through analytic induction, or on parallel phenomena identified through theoretical sampling.<ref>Ragin, 1994</ref>

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

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[edit] References

  • Adler, P. A. & Adler, P. (1987). Membership roles in field research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Becker, Howard S., The epistemology of qualitative research. University of Chicago Press, 1996. 53-71. [from Ethnography and human development : context and meaning in social inquiry / edited by Richard Jessor, Anne Colby, and Richard A. Shweder]
  • Boas, Franz (1943). Recent anthropology. Science, 98, 311-314, 334-337.
  • Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2000). Handbook of qualitative research ( 2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • DeWalt, K. M. & DeWalt, B. R. (2002). Participant observation. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Fischer, C.T. (Ed.) (2005). Qualitative research methods for psychologists: Introduction through empirical studies. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-088470-4.
  • Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). "Five Misunderstandings About Case Study Research." Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 12, no. 2, April 2006, pp. 219-245.
  • Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Kaminski, Marek M. 2004. Games Prisoners Play. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11721-7 http://webfiles.uci.edu/mkaminsk/www/book.html
  • Malinowski, B. (1922/1961). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E. P. Dutton.
  • Pamela Maykut, Richard Morehouse. 1994 Beginning Qualitative Research. Falmer Press.
  • Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods ( 3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Charles C. Ragin, Constructing Social Research: The Unity and Diversity of Method, Pine Forge Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8039-9021-9
  • Steven J. Taylor, Robert Bogdan, Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods, Wiley, 1998, ISBN 0-471-16868-8
  • Wolcott, H. F. (1995). The art of fieldwork. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Wolcott, H. F. (1999). Ethnography: A way of seeing. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Ziman, John (2000). Real Science: what it is, and what it means. Cambridge, Uk: Cambridge University Press.

[edit] External links

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Qualitative research

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