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Qualitative And Quantitative Research Methods Psychology Essay

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Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Psychology

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Examples of qualitative methods are action research, case study research and ethnography. Qualitative data sources include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), interviews and questionnaires, documents and texts, and the researcher’s impressions and reactions

Quantitative research

Is mean of testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables.

These variables in turn can be measured typically on instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statically procedures.

Quantitative research methods were originally developed in the natural sciences to study natural phenomena. Examples of quantitative methods now well accepted in the social sciences include survey methods, laboratory experiments, formal methods (e.g. econometrics) and numerical methods such as mathematical modelling.

Mixed methods Research

Is an approach to inquiry that combines or associates both qualitative and quantitative forms? Its involves philosophical assumptions, the use of qualitative and quantitative approaches and mixing the both approaches in a study.

.Mixed research is research in which quantitative and qualitative techniques are mixed in a single study. It is the third major research paradigm, adding an attractive alternative (when it is appropriate) to quantitative and qualitative research.

Worldviews in Creswell

Worldviews/ Paradigms are intellectual Frameworks embodying tradition of scientific Theories and research

The research design (strategies of inquiry and specific methods) is based on the

espoused paradigm


Ontology – what exists in reality

_ Epistemology – what can we know; how can we acquire knowledge

_ Methodology – which research methods are appropriate for generating valid evidence.

The four main worldviews/paradigms

(Post)positivism…………numerical measures of observation and studing the behaviour of individals become paramount of post positivist


Advocacy / Participatory



_Constructivism Interpretivism

_ Advocacy/Participatory

Critical research

_ Pragmatism

The four main worldviews/paradigms

(Post) positivism

Constructivism, (Development, testing, Refinement of theories)

Advocacy/Participatory Pragmatism (Change, improvement, action in the ystem)


Positivist ontology and epistemology

_Objective reality exists independent of humans

_Reality is relatively stable and orderly and it can be described in models, i.e. theories

_ The entities used in the theories can be identified in reality, and measured and

often even controlled separately (reduction)

Positivist ontology and epistemology

Post positivism acknowledges the human rationality, free will and deterministic

Worldview is compatible.

However, the total system is supposed to work orderly, contradictions are problems that must be eliminated.

Positivist ontology and epistemology

The entities can be measured objectively, independent of the observer and instruments.

Consequently, the measurements can be repeated by other researchers and the Results can be generalised.

The ideal positivist inquiry is objective and value-free.


Constructivist ontology and epistemology

Social realities are not given; they are produced by humans through their actions and interactions.

The reality can only be understood through social constructions such as language and the meanings that involved persons assign to phenomena.

The total social system is supposed to work relatively orderly, but human

Interactions include always negotiation in order to avoid conflicts and contradictions.

The social reality cannot be measured in an objective way, it can only be interpreted by the researcher

The studied phenomena must be interpreted in the current context, in their natural settings

The researcher’s prior beliefs, values, interests and assumptions influence the


The researcher can be an observer but also a participant in the social reality

Consequently, the study cannot easily be repeated by other researchers and the

Results can not always be generalised.

Critical research

Critical ontology and epistemology

The social reality is historically and politically constituted, produced by people

Social relations are not stable and orderly, there are often contradictions and conflicts in the relations, which leads to inequality and unjustice in the society

Interpretation of the world is not enough, the contradictions should also be criticised

People can change their society if they become aware of the hidden

contradictions and new possibilities

However, their ability to initiate change is often constrained

Researcher’s main aim is to expose the restrictive conditions and to facilitate

Change in cooperation with the participants.



The main focus is on how to understand and solve the research problem and to

Conduct a practical action in the real world problem setting

Action is socially situated in a given context; researcher cooperates with the

Participants and also becomes a participant observer

Multiple approaches, theories and methods can be used

Theories must be refined according to the practical outcome of the action

A framework for research design according Creswell Worldviews

Strategies of inquiry (see Table 1.2, p 12)

Research methods (see Table 1.3, p 15)



Mixed methods

Induction and deduction

Inductive and hypothetico-deductive method


Structure, context Inductive method Mostly Qualitative

and relations Hypotheticodeductive method Mostly Quantitative


Facts from


Predictions and


Inductive method

The fundamental problem with induction is that the conclusion of an inductive argument could always be false, even if a large number of observations is made

There is no generally established solution to the problem of induction.

Generalisation of theories

Theories can be on different levels, i.e. the explanation they provide covers smaller or larger parts of the reality.

Level of generalisation.

Macro-level: societies, cultural Systems, Meso-level: communities, organisations

Micro-level: small groups, individuals

Hypothetico-deductive method

Demarcation criterion would make it possible to decide whether a theory is

Scientific or not; distinction between science and pseudoscience

A theory is scientific only if it is falsiable, i.e it can be tested empirically

Once a theory/hypothesis has been formulated, predictions must be deduced

from it and these predictions are to be tested experimentally

If a theory is falsified it is abandoned, thus the method is often called conjectures and refutations

According to Popper a theory cannot be confirmed, as more severe testing will

eventually lead to falsification

Theories that have survived testing are said to be corroborated

_However, all scientific knowledge must be considered as tentative and is subject to orrection in the future

Testing of theories

The predictive power of theories is greater when the theory

_has greater ability to describe past observations

has greater ability to make correct predictions of new observations and does not make false predictions

is able to make more precise predictions

does not need additional assumptions (auxiliary hypotheses) in order to make predictions, especially not”ad hoc hypotheses.

Chapter 2 – Review of Literature

What is “literature”?

A literature review helps to

determine whether the topic is worth studying,

draw the scope of the research inquiry,

shows the results of previous studies,

filling in gaps and extending prior studies,

Establishing the importance of the study.

Topic is the subject or subject matter of a propose study. ( see the six stages of choosing a topic by Fisher)

Draft a title for the study,

Pose the title as a brief research question,

Access to participants and resources,

Contribution to the knowledge,


The use of literature (see Table 2.1, p. 27):

As an orienting framework at the beginning of research to frame the problem or at the end as “related” literature to compare and contrast results (mostly in qualitative and theoretical research),

As a separate section (mostly in quantitative research) at the beginning of research to develop hypotheses,

Integrative to summarize broad themes in the literature,

theoretical and methodological reviews.

How to conduct a literature review:

Identify Keywords,

Go to the library,

Online resources i.e. ELIN, Google Scholar,

Pick up a number of articles,

Filter the articles,

Make a literature map,

Make summaries,

Assemble the literature and develop a thematic structure.

Searching Computerized Databases:

Online databases,


Online Journals and conference home pages.

A priority for selecting literature material:

Start with broad themes,

Look for journal and conference articles, books, dissertations,

The WWW.

A literature map (see p. 35):

I recommend making an outline or a structure for the literature.

Abstracting studies:

An abstract includes major elements of any study such as problem, purpose, research question, method, and results.

Style manuals (important):

Provide guidelines on how to write and structure a scholarly manuscript.

The use of a referencing system i.e. Harvard System (available on Blackboard).

Definition of terms.

In qualitative studies definitions may emerge throughout the analysis,

In quantitative studies there is an extensive definition of terms.

In mixed method a consistent strategy of the previous two strategies is used.

Chapter 3 – Use of Theory

There are various ways of using theory in qualitative research:

As a broad explanation of behavior and attitudes e.g. in ethnographic research, researchers employ cultural themes such as stability, control, social organization, etc.

As a theoretical lens or perspective which provides a lens for the study, shapes the types of questions asked, informs the data collection and analysis, and provides a call for action and change. Also it guides researcher to important issues for the study, the people that need to be studied, the position of the researcher, and how final accounts need to be written e.g. feminist perspective.

As a grounded theory that is an end or an outcome of the research. This is the induction process in which theories are developed through empirical data that participants express in the research. See Figure 3.5, p. 64.

Some studies do not employ any explicit theory. Researchers try to build the essence of the experience from the participants.

Tips for theory use

Decide if theory is to be used in the qualitative study.

If it is used, then identify how the theory will be used in the study such as an up-front explanation, as an end point, or as an advocacy lens.

Locate the theory in the proposal in a manner that is consistent with its use.

Location of theory either at the beginning or an end influences how it is used.

Theory should be used in a sense that allows the use of a priori theory to pour from data but at the same time this priori theory shall not be used a container.

See examples 3.2 & 3.3 at p.65.

Theory use in mixed methods

Theory use in mixed methods may include deductive theory in quantitative studies and inductive theory in qualitative theory or patterns.

Theory is used as a theoretical lens or a perspective to guide the study.

The use of transformative design in mixed methods.

Mixing value commitments (bias in both quan. and qual. studies)

The use of various methods.

Focus on action solutions.

Chapter 5 – The Introduction

The introduction is the first passage in a journal article, dissertation, or scholarly research study.

Interest in the topic, establish the problems that lead to the study, place the study within the larger context of scholarly literature, and reach out to specific audience.

Research problem is the problem or issue (opportunity) that leads to the need for a study.

In Qualitative studies, the research problem is described by exploring a concept or phenomenon.

In Quantitative studies, the research problem is described by understanding what factors or variables influence the outcome.

In Mixed Methods, the introduction discusses the emphasis of one method and the problem focuses on understanding the relationships among particular variables as well as explore a topic in further depth.

A model for an introduction

The research problem

Studies that have addressed the problem.

Deficiencies in the studies.

The significance of the study for particular audiences.

The purpose statement

Be careful about the opening sentence (narrative hooks); attract the reader and make it easy to understand by the audience.

Two primary objectives must be accomplished by the introduction:

Piquing interest in the study.

Conveying a distinct research problem or issue.

Problems arise from issues, difficulties, and current practice.

Studies addressing the problem (reviewing studies).

Summarize large groups of studies.

Distinction between past studies and the proposed one.

Setting the research problem within the larger academic debate.

Deficiencies in past literature.

Significance of the study

Chapter 6 – The purpose statement

Purpose statement sets the objective, the intent, or the major idea of a proposal or a study.

It can be formulated in one or several sentences.

To be framed apart from other parts of the proposal to emphasize its importance and to avoid confusion with research problems or questions.

A qualitative purpose statement

A good qualitative purpose statement contains information about the central phenomenon explored in the study, the participants in the study, and the research site.

Design features for writing the qualitative purpose statement:

Use words such as purpose, intent, or objective.

Focus on a single phenomenon or idea.

Use action verbs to convey how learning will take place such as describe, understand, develop, examine the meaning of, etc.

Use natural phrases such as “exploring the experiences of individuals” rather than “successful experiences of individuals”.

Provide a general working definition of the phenomenon.

Include words donating to the method of inquiry.

Mention the participants in the study (individuals, groups, organizations).

Delimit the scope of participation or research sites.

A Quantitative Purpose statement

The Quantitative Purpose statement includes the variables in the study and their relationship, the participants, and the research sites.

Design features for writing the quantitative purpose statement:

Include words to signal the major intent of the study such as purpose, intent, or objective.

Indentify the theory, model, or conceptual framework.

Identify dependent and independent variables.

Use words to connect these variables such as ” the relationship between..”, “two or more variables”, etc.

Order the variables with the independent variable followed by the dependent variable.

Mention the specify type of strategy of inquiry.

Make reference to the participants.

Define each key variable.

A Mixed Method Purpose statement

A Mixed Method Purpose statement contains the overall intent of the study, information about both the quantitative and qualitative strands of the study, and a rationale of incorporating both strands of the study the research problem.

Begin with signaling words such as the purpose, the intent, etc.

Indicate the overall intent of the study from a content perspective such as “the intent is to learn about organizational effectiveness” or “the intent is to study families with step-children.

Discuss the reasons for combining both qualitative and quantitative data.

Include the characteristics of both qualitative and quantitative purpose statements.

Consider adding information about the specific types of both qualitative and quantitative data collection.

Chapter 7 – Research Questions and Hypothesis

The central “qualitative” question is a “broad” question that asks for an exploration of the central phenomenon or concept in a study.

It should be consistent with the emerging methodology of qualitative research.

Guidelines for writing “broad”, qualitative research questions:

Ask one or two central questions followed by no more than five to seven sub questions.

Relate the central question to the specific qualitative strategy of inquiry.

Begin the research questions with the words what or how to convey an open and emerging design.

Focus on a single phenomenon or concept.

Use exploratory verbs that convey the language of emerging design such as discover, seek to understand, etc.

Use more exploratory verbs that suggest qualitative research such as affect, influence, impact, determine, cause, etc.

Expect the research question to evolve and change during the study.

Use open-ended questions.

Specify the participants and the research site.

Quantitative Research Questions and Hypothesis

A quantitative research question inquires about the relationship among variables that the investigator seeks to know.

Quantitative hypotheses are predictions the research makes about the expected relationships among variables. They are numeric estimates of population values based on data collected from samples.

Guidelines for writing good quantitative research questions and hypotheses:

Different uses of variables in quantitative research questions (compare, relate, describe)

Testing theories.

Separate measures for independent and dependent variables (cause-and-effect logic)

To avoid redundancy, write either research questions or hypotheses, not both.

Null, alternative, and non-directional hypotheses.

Mixed Methods Research Questions and Hypotheses

Often, there are no specific questions or hypotheses tailored to mixed methods research.

Guidelines for mixed methods RQs and Hypotheses:

Both Qual. and Quan. RQs need to be advanced in a mixed methods study to narrow and focus the purpose statement.

Follow previous guidelines for Qual. and Quan.

Attention to the order of the RQs and Hypotheses.

Include a mixed methods research question that directly addresses the mixing of the Qual. and Quan. Strands of the research.

Chapter 8 – Quantitative Methods

Defining surveys and experiments:

A survey design provides a quantitative or numeric description of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population by studying a sample of that population.

Experiment design is to test the impact of a treatment (or an intervention) on an outcome. Controlling for all other factors that might influence that outcome.

Components of a survey design

The survey design:

Identify the purpose of survey research.

Indicate why a survey is the preferred type of data collection procedure for the study.

Indicate whether the survey will be cross-sectional, with the data collected at one point in time, or longitudinal with data collected over time.

Specify the form of data collection (self-administered, questioners, interviews, structured record reviews to collect financial, medical, or school info, and structured observations.)

See Table 8.1 (p. 147) Checklist for designing a survey.

The population and sample

Essential aspects of the population and sample:

Identify the population in the study and state the size of this population.

Identify whether the sampling design for this population is single stage or multistage.

Identify the selection process for individuals.

Identify whether the study will involve stratification.

Discuss the procedures for selecting the sample from available lists.

Indicate the number of people in the sample and the procedures used to compute this number.


The actual instrument or “tool” used in the study:

Name the survey instrument used to collect the data (designed for the research, modified instrument, intact instrument used by someone else).

To use an existing instrument, discuss its validity and reliability.

Considering validity and reliability issues when modifying or combining instruments.

Include actual items from the instrument so that readers can see the actual items used.

Indicate the major content sections in the instrument, such as a cover letter, the items, etc.

Discuss plans for pilot testing or field survey and provide a rationale for these plans.

For a mailed survey, identify steps for administering the survey and for following up to ensure a high response rate.

Variables in the study & Data analysis and interpretation

Relate variable to the specific questions or hypotheses on the instrument.

Present information about the steps involved in analyzing the data.

Report info about the number of members of the sample who did and who did not return the survey.

Discuss the method by which response bias will be determined (response bias is the effect of nonresponses on survey estimates )

Discuss a plan to provide a descriptive analysis of data for all independent and dependent variables in the study.

If the proposal contains an instrument with scales or a plan to develop scales (combining items into scales) indentify the statistical procedure for accomplishing this.

Identify the statistics and the statistical computer program for testing the major inferential research question or hypothesis in the study.

Present the results in tables and figures and interpret the results from the statistical test.

Components of an experimental design

Participants: random and nonrandom sampling, matching participants, true experiment, number, and values.

Variables: dependent, independent.

Instrumentation and Materials: instruments completed by the participants, materials used for experimental treatment.

Experimental procedures: type of design, what is being compared, illustration of the specific research design.

Threats to validity: effects on the experiment outcome.

The procedure: step-by-step explanation of the procedure.

Data analysis: types of statistical analysis used during the experiment.

Interpreting result: interpretation of the results in the light of the RQ and hypothesis.

Chapter 9 – Qualitative Procedures

Characteristics of Qual. Research:

Natural setting.

Researcher as key instrument.

Multiple sources of data.

Inductive data analysis.

Participant’s meanings.

Emergent design.

Theoretical lens.


Holistic account

Philosophical Perspectives

All research (whether quantitative or qualitative) is based on some underlying assumptions about what constitutes ‘valid’ research and which research methods are appropriate. In order to conduct and/or evaluate qualitative research, it is therefore important to know what these (sometimes hidden) assumptions are.

For our purposes, the most pertinent philosophical assumptions are those which relate to the underlying epistemology which guides the research. Epistemology refers to the assumptions about knowledge and how it can be obtained (for a fuller discussion, see Hirschheim, 1992).

Guba and Lincoln (1994) suggest four underlying “paradigms” for qualitative research: positivism, post-positivism, critical theory, and constructivism. Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991), following Chua (1986), suggest three categories, based on the underlying research epistemology: positivist, interpretive and critical. This three-fold classification is the one that is adopted here. However it needs to be said that, while these three research epistemologies are philosophically distinct (as ideal types), in the practice of social research these distinctions are not always so clear cut (e.g. see Lee, 1989). There is considerable disagreement as to whether these research “paradigms” or underlying epistemologies are necessarily opposed or can be accommodated within the one study.

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It should be clear from the above that the word ‘qualitative’ is not a synonym for ‘interpretive’ – qualitative research may or may not be interpretive, depending upon the underlying philosophical assumptions of the researcher. Qualitative research can be positivist, interpretive, or critical (see Figure 1). It follows from this that the choice of a specific qualitative research method (such as the case study method) is independent of the underlying philosophical position adopted. For example, case study research can be positivist (Yin, 1994), interpretive (Walsham, 1993), or critical, just as action research can be positivist (Clark, 1972), interpretive (Elden and Chisholm, 1993) or critical (Carr and Kemmis, 1986). These three philosophical perspectives are discussed below.


1. Positivist Research

Positivists generally assume that reality is objectively given and can be described by measurable properties which are independent of the observer (researcher) and his or her instruments. Positivist studies generally attempt to test theory, in an attempt to increase the predictive understanding of phenomena. In line with this Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991, p.5) classified IS research as positivist if there was evidence of formal propositions, quantifiable measures of variables, hypothesis testing, and the drawing of inferences about a phenomenon from the sample to a stated population. Examples of a positivist approach to qualitative research include Yin’s (1994) and Benbasat et al’s (1987) work on case study research.

2. Interpretive Research

Interpretive researchers start out with the assumption that access to reality (given or socially constructed) is only through social constructions such as language, consciousness and shared meanings. The philosophical base of interpretive research is hermeneutics and phenomenology (Boland, 1985). Interpretive studies generally attempt to understand phenomena through the meanings that people assign to them and interpretive methods of research in IS are “aimed at producing an understanding of the context of the information system, and the process whereby the information system influences and is influenced by the context” (Walsham 1993, p. 4-5). Interpretive research does not predefine dependent and independent variables, but focuses on the full complexity of human sense making as the situation emerges (Kaplan and Maxwell, 1994).

Examples of an interpretive approach to qualitative research include Boland’s (1991) and Walsham’s (1993) work.

References on Interpretive Research

3. Critical Research

Critical researchers assume that social reality is historically constituted and that it is produced and reproduced by people. Although people can consciously act to change their social and economic circumstances, critical researchers recognize that their ability to do so is constrained by various forms of social, cultural and political domination. The main task of critical research is seen as being one of social critique, whereby the restrictive and alienating conditions of the status quo are brought to light. Critical research focuses on the oppositions, conflicts and contradictions in contemporary society, and seeks to be emancipatory i.e. it should help to eliminate the causes of alienation and domination.

One of the best known exponents of contemporary critical social theory is Jurgen Habermas, who is regarded by many as one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century. Habermas was a member of the Frankfurt School, which included figures such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Lukacs, and Marcuse. Examples of a critical approach to qualitative research include Ngwenyama’s (1991) and Hirschheim and Klein’s (1994) work.

References on Critical Social Theory


Qualitative Research Methods

Just as there are various philosophical perspectives which can inform qualitative research, so there are various qualitative research methods. A research method is a strategy of inquiry which moves from the underlying philosophical assumptions to research design and data collection. The choice of research method influences the way in which the researcher collects data. Specific research methods also imply different skills, assumptions and research practices. The four research methods that will be discussed here are action research, case study research, ethnography and grounded theory – for more detail see Myers (2009).

1. Action Research

There are numerous definitions of action research, however one of the most widely cited is that of Rapoport?s, who defines action research in the following way:

Action research aims to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to the goals of social science by joint collaboration within a mutually acceptable ethical framework (Rapoport, 1970, p. 499).

This definition draws attention to the collaborative aspect of action research and to possible ethical dilemmas which arise from its use. It also makes clear, as Clark (1972) emphasizes, that action research is concerned to enlarge the stock of knowledge of the social science community. It is this aspect of action research that distinguishes it from applied social science, where the goal is simply


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