Using examples taken from at least two of the research papers you have read in EK310 so far, discuss the main differences between qualitative and quantitative research. Over the next few paragraphs I shall be exploring the main differences between qualitative and quantitative research. I will provide a full description of the differences between the two research methods and then examine in more detail 3 or 4 main differences. These being: 1) Small scale study versus large scale study 2) Researcher immersed in situation versus researcher is an objective observer.
3) Less formal and harder to replicate versus less variable and easier to replicate. 4) Emphasises meaning, experiences and descriptions versus reality in terms of variable and relationships between them. I will then work through two research papers that I have studied in EK310 so far and relate these differences to the papers. I will also discuss why each research approach has been chosen for the particular report. The research papers I am going to looking at are as follows: ‘I forgot the sky!’ Children’s Stories Contained within Their Drawings – Elizabeth Coates.
Multiple Risk Behaviour and Injury: An International Analysis of Young People – Will Pickett et al I will also investigate if there are any similarities between qualitative and quantitative research and finally draw a conclusion on the work I have carried out. Differences between the two methods Qualitative research emphasises meaning, experiences and descriptions. Raw data will be exactly what people have said (in interview or recorded conversations) or a description of what has been observed.
As a basic rule qualitative data involves words and real life situations. A qualitative study tends to be on a small personal scale and the researcher becomes involved and immersed in the study. Qualitative research can be used for testing responses to advertising messages, analyzing responses to products and is used to gain as full and rich a picture of what is happening in a situation. (Reader, Coates, page 25). Quantitative research involves the recording and analysis of quantitative data. Quantification means to measure on some numerical basis, whenever we count or categorise we quantify.
Quantitative data is largely in the form of numbers. A quantitative study tends to be on a much larger scale. The researcher in this type of study is purely an observer who neither participates nor influences what is happening. Quantitative research can be used for telephone surveys, and also to understand how many people in a population are likely to respond in a certain way i.e. measuring market size.
I have found that the best way to look and compare the differences between the two methods is by use of a table. This makes it easier to see the comparisons between the two. As you will see I have two headings of qualitative and quantitative and have then listed below the main differences between the two approaches. After reading the research paper by Picket et al it is easy to identify that this was a quantitative research paper and not qualitative. The study is based on a World Health Organization collaborative cross-national survey of health behaviour in school aged children, reports from young people in 12 countries, by country, age group, sex, and injury type were examined to quantify the strength and consistency of this association.
A total of 50,691 youths in 12 countries responded to the questions and 49,461 completed records that contributed to the final analysis. (Reader, Picket et al, page 125). This is obviously a very large scale study and the researcher would not be able to get involved or immersed in a project of this size. To become more involved in this paper and for it to become a qualitative report the researcher would have had to have been more interactive with the children participating in the questions and this could not have been carried out.
Even if it had been carried out, the test area was too large and the number of children questioned too large it would have become a very time consuming and lengthy project. To carry out the study Pickett devised a simple scale that consisted of counts of health risk behaviours measured against the presence or absence of reported injuries. He set this up in a very formal manner ensuring that, by reading through his paper the method could be, if necessary replicated. The quantitative method is very formal and structured compared to the qualitative method. The researcher is not involved and I feel the reports have a much more impersonal feel to them. They are purely stating facts and figures.
In comparison the research paper by Coates was a study carried out in a classroom observing small groups of children between the ages of 3 – 7. This meant that the researcher could become involved and sit and watch what was happening on a daily basis. The research was carried out on twenty children in three settings. There were four 4 year olds, eight 5 year olds, four 6 year olds and four 7 year olds thus enabling the researcher to work with small groups at a time.
This would have enabled Coates to make the notes and observe as needed but also become involved if necessary. It is obviously a lot more personal working in smaller groups on this scale and you get a more realistic view of what is happening. Whilst carrying out the research Coates was immersed in the project. It is very hard for a project like this to follow a strict regime as in a quantitative report. The research was carried out on small children in a classroom setting and therefore anything could have happened. Although Coates will have had an idea of what she wanted to happen nothing is concrete in a qualitative study.
The theory of the study could be copied but in reality it is much harder to replicate. Whereas Pickett had devised a scale of what he wanted to achieve Coates’ paper was from an idea that interested her. It is all very personal and part of what she wanted to do. The study is very much a real life situation, a lived experience that is actually happening at the time of the study. In a quantitative study the difference is that the report is aiming to prove something and show results as needed. Although Coates knew what she wanted to achieve in this study the outcomes from the study depended entirely on the children and how their work progressed. This type of approach can be used in a variety of situations, but as proved by Coates’ study it is best suited to real life situation. (Reader, Coates, page 5 and 9).
As you can see from the above comparisons there are significant differences between the two types of research but both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used simultaneously to answer a research question. They can be combined in research and researchers tend to find they complement each other. At the end of each type of research the researcher should have an answer to the initial question they wanted answering. The main differences emphasized in my findings lie in the nature of the data, and in the methods for collecting and analysing. However, the differences should not obscure the similarities in logic. (Set Book, Punch, page 240).
I have tried over the past few paragraphs to explain some of the differences between the two types of research. I think one of the main differences that run throughout this essay is the fact the qualitative reports tend to be more personal, lived experiences. I personally felt more interested in this type of report purely from a reader point of view; it captured my attention and left me wanting to find out how the report progressed. A quantitative report on the other hand is very factual and matter of fact. I found quantitative reports quite hard going and boring. Although I have looked at the differences between the two approaches neither approach reigns superior to the other. Each approach has its own strengths and its weaknesses, and over reliance on any one method is not appropriate. Both approaches are needed in social research. (Set Book, Punch, page 241).
Coates, E. (2004) ” I forgot the sky!” Children’s stories contained within their drawings’ in V. Lewis, M. Kellet, C. Robinson, S. Fraser and S. Ding (eds) The Reality of Research with Children and Young People, London: Sage in association with the Open University. Pickett, W. et al (2004) Multiple Risk Behaviour and Injury: An International Analysis of Young People in V. Lewis, M. Kellet, C. Robinson, S. Fraser and S. Ding (eds) The Reality of Research with Children and Young People, London: Sage in association with the Open University. Punch, K. F. (1998) An Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, London: Sage.