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Outline some of the main differences between quantitative and qualitative Research methods. (1000 words)

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EMMA SMITH SOCIOLOGY - SOCS 101 - SEMESTER A SEMINAR GROUP C- Thursday 2-3pm 2A) Outline some of the main differences between quantitative and qualitative Research methods. (1000 words) The discipline of sociology dates back to the end of the 18th century, and for many, it seems a difficult term to accurately define. It covers a wide range of topics such as poverty and gender to race and relationships, and its focus is on understanding the modernised, and industrialised world, which has developed throughout this time. Sociology enables us to take a step back and look at things which are familiar to us in a new way. Methodology and theories give us the ability to see things from a new perspective. The term 'methodology' defines the theory and analysis of how research should proceed. Any good research should have a basis in science, and the factor that distinguishes sociological arguments from common sense is systematic knowledge, which is developed through rigorous research processes. In doing research, people are trying to produce knowledge that is accurate; a description of some aspect of the world that is as close as possible to how it actually is. They also try to make sure that this knowledge is objective and value-free, meaning that the information must be gathered in a way that limits the chances of the researcher influencing or distorting the information. 'The ultimate goals of research are to formulate questions and to find answers to these questions. ...read more.


Qualitative research focuses on experiences and meanings and because of the importance that is placed on interpreting behaviour, it is linked with Interpretativism. This type of approach is associated with Max Weber, and just as Durkheims methodology is underpinned in his research, the same can be said for Weber. Weber's general approach was 'Verstehen', and this means the empathetic understanding of the subject. Linked with the Interpretativist approach, is the use of the 'ideal type', and Weber spoke of this method in his book 'The Methodology of Social Science' (cited in Marsh, 2000). The ideal type method is designed to increase objectivity. The idea of this method is for the researcher to construct a model of the area of study, picking out what they consider to be the most salient features. Then, once the research has been carried out the ideal type model can be brought back out and be used as a comparative method to analyse preconceptions on the subject against the truth. Another key difference between quantitative and qualitative methods is the scale of the chosen subject. The techniques used in qualitative methods usually involve studying large numbers, whereas with qualitative research the focus is on smaller scale research. And with this, there is less emphasis on making generalizations about society, with more time being spent understanding the actions and motivations of selected groups. Ultimately, whilst both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used in the study of sociology to produce information on various aspects of society, the forms that this information may take can be very different. ...read more.


Although not all feminists are against quantitative research, many believe that qualitative methods are more sensitive towards females; so on the whole feminists could be classed as a group who often do not use both methods complimentarily. The one negative point that is cited as regards the use of both techniques is that whilst it may provide more conclusive information, a lot more work is involved. Corner and Wilson-Barnett reported in 1992 on the use of triangulation in a longitudinal study. This was based on the educational experiences of newly qualified nurses, and they decided to use triangulation to resolve an argument with their funding body - as they required a quantitative design whilst the nurses themselves wished to include a qualitative assessment, so that they could identify their educational needs. The authors concluded that ' triangulation contributes to a more detailed understanding of the nurses needs but it was at the expense of a considerably increased workload for the researcher'. (Corner and Wilson-Barnett: 1992 cited in McKenzie, Powell, and Usher: 1997) So it can be reflected on as to whether this may be a criticism or drawback of using triangulation for research methods. Fundamentally, it seems using qualitative and quantitative methods complimentarily, rather than exclusively can provide researchers with many advantages. Whilst it may mean more work for those involved, it has been used in many studies. It is believed that using multiple methods in the investigation of a phenomenon provides researchers with the most complete picture, and research seems to be ultimately pluralistic in that it may be necessary to gather information by whatever means possible to give a deeper insight into the subject. ...read more.

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Again, a low grade 3/high grade 2 essay. There is no consideration really of the second part of the question - why they might be considered 'mutually exclusive'. This would require a bit of consideration of competing epistemologies, which are only mentioned as a throwaway comment.

Marked by teacher Grace Thomas 24/04/2012

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