strength and limitations of quantitative and qualitative data

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Lekha Ravichandran

Class #3


Discuss the strength and limitations of quantitative and qualitative data in supporting knowledge claims in the human sciences and at least one other area of knowledge.

        Human sciences (such as psychology, economics, anthropology, sociology, etc.) attempt to understand human behavior and seek to learn more about human nature. But our behaviors are often times unpredictable and tricky to interpret due to our language, reason, free will, and creativity. So to what extent can we apply scientific principles to discover more about human actions? How accurate are the conclusions we make based on the data we collect? What factors might affect the consistency of our data? We must ask ourselves and consider these questions when striving to determine the degree to which our quantitative and qualitative data can be deemed reliable. There are many limitations involved when trying to study humans since we are complex, self-conscious beings. There is no absolute certainty that can be achieved when trying to reach conclusions. Deciding upon the laws that we believe to govern our actions has proven to be complex and troublesome. Despite all these issues, and although many people might argue in defense of free-will, experience and other practices have shown us that many of our actions are in fact, very predictable. Still, I believe that when it comes to trying to attain a common ground about human nature, we are able to rely more on the information we get from qualitative data rather than from quantitative data. Although measurements play a significant part when trying to gain knowledge, it is usually vague when pertaining to human sciences versus other areas of knowledge. In the natural sciences, the facts and information we are trying to comprehend can be clearly analyzed to come to a conclusion or verify a theory; whereas the social sciences deal with problems when establishing laws not only because the methods used are qualitative and unreliable, but also because human behavior is holistic and can be unforeseen.

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        It is practically impossible to assess or count up the number of “thoughts” one has in a day. William James thought of these “thoughts” as a stream of consciousness. This led to the study of behaviorism using a scientific approach. We can quantitatively study humans to a certain extent depending upon the topic. For example, population and income can be measured without any difficulties in trying to analyze and put together data. However, using statistical data to interpret a phenomenon that occurs in life can give rise to a stream of problems. For example, when trying to determine which country ...

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