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An Anylisis Of Qualitative And Quantitative Data: Is There One Right Way To Conduct Social Research?

3101 words - 12 pages

Is there one right wayto conduct social research?When undertaking Social research there are two most commonly used methods: quantitative and qualitative; There is often a great divide between the users of qualitative and quantitative methods of research. Put simply, quantitative research uses mathematical principals and it is statistical, therefore it is often viewed as more reliable and valid. On the other hand there is qualitative research which is based on interviewing and finding out the "why" of a particular situation. Qualitative research is interpretative rather than descriptive, is non-numerical and is known for it's credibility and auditability.A balanced assessment of the two forms of research requires a knowledge of the history behind the two forms of research, an in depth look at what they are and what they both entail as social research and to discover the different methods that can be used within qualitative and quantitative research. We also need to find out the strengths and weaknesses of both qualitative and quantitative data so fair judgement can be made to discover if there is a correct way to undertake social research.The history behind qualitative and quantitative dataIt is qualitative data that has it's origins in hermeneutics and can often be associated with ethnography, naturalistic research or grounded theory (which I will discuss later).Hermeneutics is "the view that observation is an imperative process" (Sutton and Bradley 1993:406)In the English dictionary hermeneutics is defined as " 1.The science of interpretation, esp. scriptures 2. The branch of theology that deals with the principals and methodology of exegeses."( Collins English dictionary 1979).The name 'Hermeneutics' was taken from the son of Zeus called Hermes who was known as the "god of travellers" (Gadamer 1960/1975 as cited in Kliening and Witt). Hermes was seen as competent because of his 'slyness' and therefore the gods trusted him to interpret their intentions to the human beingsLater, in 1843/1906 John Stuart Mill was said to tell social researchers to "emulate their older, 'harder' cousins (meaning the practices of quantitative research) , promising that if his advice were followed, rapid maturation of these fields, as well as their emancipation from the philosophical and theological structures that limited them would follow" (Guba and Lincoln 1998:196-197) Meaning that if qualitative data could be somewhat structured then the results from the research could be recognised as a valid form of research.During the 1960's a German writer by the name of Hans-Georg Gadamer published a book on 'philosophical hermeneutics'. Around the same time Jurgen Habermas wrote a book on the status of methodology in the social sciences. Both of these writers acknowledged the relationship between Geisteswissenschaftn (which is known as social science) and natural science. After this period, the teaching of methodology, textbooks and research work noted and gave access to...

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