Quantitative research is based on statements such as "anything that exists exists in a certain quantity and can be measured." "While Thorndike’s statement from 1904 appears to be fairly innocent and direct, it staked an important philosophical position that has persisted in social science research throughout most to this century." (Custer, 1996, p. 3). In 1927, William F. Ogburn successfully lobbied to have Lord Kelvin’s motto: "When you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory" prominently and permanently carved onto the face of the University of Chicago’s social science research building." In this decade, however, the competing paradigms of quantitative and qualitative research have become almost working partners in educational research. Many researchers today advocate a "paradigm of choices that seeks methodological appropriateness as the primary criterion for judging methodological quality. This will allow for situational responsiveness that strict adherence to one paradigm or another will not" (Patton, 1990, p. 30).
The ideals of quantitative research call for procedures that are public, that use precise definitions, that use objectivity-seeking methods for data collection and analysis, that are replicable so that findings can be confirmed or disconfirmed, and that are systematic and cumulative—all resulting in knowledge useful for explaining, predicting, and controlling the effects of teaching on student outcomes (Gage, 1994, p. 372).
This is the basic definition of quantitative research that will be discussed in this paper. For purposes of comparison, qualitative analysis will be frequently mentioned along with quantitative analysis.
The Two Paradigms
"A quantitative research methodology is appropriate where quantifiable measures of variables of interest are possible, where hypotheses can be formulated and tested, and inferences drawn from samples to populations. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, are appropriate when the phenomena under study are complex, are social in nature, and do not lend themselves to quantification" (Liebscher, 1998, p. 669). Quantitative research is based primarily on positivistic thought and qualitative research is more constructivist in theory. Until recently, the strict scientific methods employed by quantitative analysis have been considered the best way to conduct any meaningful research. "The positivist notion that qualitative data is inherently untrustworthy and therefore to be avoided is untenable. Arguments are advanced to support the view that social research is based on ‘qualitative knowing’ and that quantification extends, refines, and cross-checks qualitative knowledge" (Howe, 1985, p. 10). In other words, current thought holds that the two paradigms are not mutually exclusive and could very well support each other in most social science inquiry. "To disparage qualitative data as subjective is to accuse it of having high fallibility; to...