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Discuss the difference between Quantitative and Qualitative research methods.

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Louise Riddell - 0014332 SO113 - Social Research Methods and Study Skills RESIT REASSESSMENT COURSEWORK Discuss the difference between Quantitative and Qualitative research methods. Social research methods can be divided into two main branches or schools quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research involves measuring quantities of things, usually numerical quantities. Qualitative research involves assessing the quality of things. These research methods used by sociologists in data gathering. Both methods have their limitations and differences. Quantitative research methods are concerned with empirical research, this is designed for statistical analysis. Qualitative research methods on the other hand are not. Instead they enable researchers to study social and cultural phenomena. All research whether quantitative or qualitative are based on assumptions about what can be considered as "valid" research, and what research methods are deemed appropriate. When wanting to find out about, how people may vote then quantitative methods such as a social survey may be deemed an appropriate choice. ...read more.


"Qualitative researchers still largely feel themselves to be second-class citizens whose work typically evokes suspicion, where the 'gold standard' is quantitative research." (Silverman, 2000.) To help explain why quantitative research is seen as the 'gold standard', I will describe the methods in more detail. There are five main methods of quantitative research. These are social survey, experiment, official statistics, "structured observation" and content analysis. A good example would be a survey of father and son's occupations. The independent variable being the father's occupation and the son's being the dependant. This is because the father is the possible cause of the sons. The results of such a study would be shown in a table of findings. The survey could look at manual and non-manual workers, and random sample of 100 people would probably be used, depending on the researcher. This would be so the researcher could be confident within specifiable limits that any correlation is probably not a chance finding. ...read more.


A number of quantitative practices are seen as inappropriate by qualitative researchers. The idea that social science research can only be valid if based on experimental data, official statistics, random sampling. Those who criticize quantitative research, argue that these assumptions have a number of defects. They believe the techniques mentioned earlier like random sampling and experiments are sometimes inappropriate. They do not take into account behaviour in everyday situations for instance. Quantification can be useful but conceals basic social processes. A good example would be when counting attitudes in a survey. People do not always have coherent attitudes to the topic being researched. Another point is that we have adopted an attitude but behave differently in practice! Statistics simply cannot measure all areas of social reality. Methods used by qualitative researchers are an example of the belief they can provide a "deeper" understanding of social phenomena than from quantitative data on its own! There is no agreed doctrine for qualitative research. There are many branches, these include feminism, postmodernism, and ethnomedology. ...read more.

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