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Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research.

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Introduction

Aqeel Hussain POLI 2001 - Political Thought and Research Methods Stephen Parsons Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research. Qualitative research is about the study of local and small-scale social situations. It seeks to answer 'why' rather than 'how many' questions. Its techniques involve close and sustained encounters with people, such as participant observation, in-depth interviews, 'focus groups' and 'mystery customers' (who test how easy it is to get in touch with the right person and how the user is treated). The researcher investigates people's own perceptions, attitudes and behaviour without re-structuring data by 'imposing' a questionnaire schedule on respondents or using secondary sources. Small purposive samples of tyres of individuals are used rather than the large probability sample typical of quantitative research. Qualitative research emphasises the importance of looking at variables in the natural setting in which they are found. Interaction between variables is important. Qualitative researchers are concerned in their research with attempting to accurately describe, decode, and interpret the meanings of phenomena occurring in their normal social contexts.1 Qualitative research differs from quantitative research which attempts to gather data by objective methods to provide information about relations, comparisons and predictions and attempts to remove the investigator from the investigation. Qualitative research provides people with a means of attempting to understand a world that cannot be understood in terms of numbers and objectivity. ...read more.

Middle

The answer could lie in the fact that, at times, numerical data is absolutely necessary in order to test a hypothesis, or they are rejected because results are very hard to simplify and to remember. They provide explanations which are hard to translate into action. The production of qualitative research results is 'open' and hence more exposed to criticism than the end results of quantitative research.6 In an interview with policymakers and politicians it is said that "Qualitative and quantitative research results are equally important and we base our work just as much on qualitative as quantitative research results.7 However in a statement by the Public Administrator in KUF/UFD he says that in one way you might say it is easier to make generalisations based on the figures. When you are to make a political decision you ask if there has been any change, can you say anything about the figures. That can be difficult with the qualitative research results. You may lean on positive effects reported in this and that school, but usually you need the figures as support as well. If the one research supports the other, qualitative research is fine. We need both, but we often see that for instance gender studies apply qualitative methods, that is, smaller research, and it is not easy to make generalisations from those to go for the entire society. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, in an article published in Marketing News by Laurie Tema-Lyn (1999), the author states that listening bias is a problem that often plagues qualitative researchers, sometimes unbeknownst to them. She states, "Most of us tend to listen in two major modes: for reaction, or for enlistment. We pay attention to "the mistakes," to what we disagree with, or we listen for agreement, noticing comments that support our ideas and beliefs." Obviously, this method would cause results to be unreliable, and a researcher should certainly be aware of the possibility of bias in his/her report of findings.11 All of these concerns are important to consider, especially the one which contends that because this type of research is so time-consuming, the results may no longer be valid or relevant by the time they are published. Therefore, there are many instances when not only is qualitative research not necessary, there is not enough time (or money) to conduct the research. In order for qualitative research results to become more useful, qualitative researchers need to make more generalised conclusions. They also need position themselves together with large and well known research institutions. Furthermore, researchers should publish the findings in a more interesting and comprehensible way. Annual happenings for presentation of fantastic qualitative research results to policymakers and politicians would help qualitative research become more noticeable and therefore actually be used as much as quantitative research. ...read more.

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