Quantitative And Qualitative Approaches To Educational Research: Strenghs And Weaknesses

3370 words - 13 pages

FET 8801Research Methods in EducationQuantitative and Qualitative Approaches to Research(3,248 words)INTRODUCTIONFor thousands of years, philosophers and other academics have formulated and debated theories of knowledge in attempts to conceptualize and analyze reality. These ways of knowing are commonly referred to as epistemologies which help us make sense of the world in which we live. Epistemological theories attempt to address the perception of reality, truth, justice and the pursuit of knowledge (Evers and Walker, 1998: 29). In science, there are two main theoretical approaches to research. The Quantitative tradition relies on numerical data and has been associated with the positivist, empiricist and behaviourist schools of thought. Qualitative research focuses on the collection of non-numerical data such as narratives and unstructured interviews. The qualitative approach is often associated with post-positivist, hermeneutic or constructive schools of thought (Evers and Walker, 1998: 28). Each of these approaches provides researchers with different paradigms or conceptions and views of research problems and methods. As a result, the conclusions generated from each of these methodologies are different.The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of both the quantitative and qualitative research traditions and to assess their respective strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, this paper asserts that the underlying epistemological differences of quantitative and qualitative methods mean that they have very different ways of understanding and interpreting the world. Consequently, these traditions should be viewed not as being in conflict with each other but instead as complimentary. A major theme presented in this paper is that we should choose our research methods based upon what it is that we are trying to find out instead of a blind allegiance to particular epistemological traditions.DIFFERENT WAYS OF KNOWINGFirst, it may be useful to look at two examples in order to illustrate the distinct contributions of both the quantitative and qualitative traditions. As well, these examples highlight the importance of selecting research methods and techniques that are best suited for the type of study under investigation.Suppose a medical researcher wants to determine the personal attributes and number of people who do not adhere to drug and alcohol counseling programs. The researcher would perhaps design a study using a tightly controlled experiment involving random samples from the population under study. The study would assign subjects into an experimental groups and a control group, with the experimental group given the treatment for the addiction.A quantitative investigator would look for a cause and effect relationship between the defined variables in the study and then either accept or rejects his or her hypotheses based on the data produced. The medical researcher would probably conduct this research as a quantitative study and possibly...

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