The decision to conduct research is not an easy task because much work has to be done and much time has to be spent. Researchers can make mistakes at the initial stage of the work when the necessity to choose a research method takes place. There are two main types of research methods people can be familiar with, qualitative and quantitative. Each type has its peculiarities and characteristics, its goals and functions, its outcomes and impacts. Any researcher has to be aware of such details in order to make the right decision and provide clear explanations of everything that has and can be in a project. In this paper, different aspects of qualitative and quantitative methods will be discussed to understand what methods has benefits, how it is possible to identify where a qualitative-quantitative and quantitative-qualitative methods are used, and why it is necessary to consider legal, ethical, and socio-cultural aspects of methods.
Qualitative Research Methods
A qualitative research method is one of the possible ways to collect data and use it in a project. It is characterized by the in-depth context, descriptions of the situation, and interpretations. As a rule, this kind of research aims at developing an understanding of an issue by means of descriptions and personal opinions (Taylor, Bogdan, & DeVault, 2015). The research may help to create a theory and prove its importance. Still, it is hard to test the offered material because of the necessity to gather some general information and prove its appropriateness with the help of interviews, case studies, action research, and personal observations.
Qualitative research methods are longitudinal by their nature, and the researchers, who make a decision to use this type of research, should divide their time properly and realize that it is expected to involve many other people, who can give answers, share their experiences and opinions, and interpret the material found (Patton, 2014). Though there is no necessity to test the material gathered with the help of qualitative methods, it is expected to have many sources. If interviews are used as the main methods, it is enough to involve about 25 people and use their answers as the basis for research.
Qualitative research questions should be “why” based because the core of these methods is evidence. The researcher should understand the reason for why something is happening. For example, it is possible to give the answer to such question “What challenges may ESL students face with while conducting interviews with native speakers in the United States of America?” with the help of a qualitative study. Besides, it is necessary to clarify the region of the US that is going to be investigated and the native languages of ESL students, who will be investigated.
Quantitative Research Methods
Quantitative research methods should be regarded as the opposition to the qualitative studies. It is not correct to oppose the methods. It is preferable to consider this study as another opportunity to conduct research and answer the questions using different approaches. There are a number of differences that can be observed in qualitative and quantitative methods. In comparison to the qualitative studies, where evidence and interpretation play an important role, quantitative studies deal with numbers, facts, and explanations.
The researchers, who choose quantitative methods, aim at describing their topics. There is no necessity to interpret and understand. The focus of the study is the description that has to be proved by means of facts. As a rule, it is possible to use such tools as reports, statistical analysis, surveys, questionnaires, or polls in order to collect data for qualitative. Quantitative data should consist of numbers that should not be interpreted just presented as the facts but used as proof (Bernard, 2012). The aim of a quantitative research method is to test the theory offered in the project. It is expected that the participants of such methods should be isolated so that their answers are independent and based on personal attitudes only.
In an academic project, quantitative research questions are usually followed by null and alternative hypotheses. Researchers have to develop several questions and provide the hypotheses that can serve as the main guides of their work. Besides, it is necessary to identify the variables that can be used in research (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011). The questions have to consider different aspects and cover as many issues as possible in order to explain the role of each word in the question. For example, the quantitative research question like “Does the gender of a teacher may influence the student satisfaction and retention levels?” contains an independent variable (a gender of a teacher) and an independent variable (student satisfaction and retention). Besides, the research builds two types of hypotheses concluding if the gender factor affects or does not affect student retention and satisfaction.
Rationale for the Methodological choice of data collection
Regarding the peculiarities of both methods, a researcher has to make a rational explanation of the methodological choice of data collection. As a rule, this choice depends on such factors as a research topic, the goals that have to be achieved, budget issues, and timing frames. A researcher has to understand what kind of work can be done with any of the two methods, and if it is possible to meet the requirements and deadlines with the choice made. The reasons for choosing a quantitative research method can be the possibility to extend the time frames that can be set, small amounts of data that have to be evaluated, and a chance to use mathematical and statistical facts to prove the chosen position. The choice of a qualitative research method can be explained with another rationale. First, the researcher is free to interpret data in regards to personal knowledge and attitudes and build a new theory that can be approved or disproved with time. Second, qualitative research helps to grasp the meaning of the concepts that can be discussed in a project. Finally, qualitative methods promote practicing and evaluation of the facts that have been known. At the same time, it is necessary to comprehend that this kind of work should be based on regular and hard work and cooperation with people, who can share their experience and use their behavior as evidence to the chosen topic.
Mixed-Methodology Research Studies
The choice of mixed-methodology research provides researchers with a possibility to combine the elements of qualitative and quantitative research methods and use the viewpoints that can be inherent to both, qualitative and quantitative approaches in order to promote breadth and depth of topic understanding at the same time (Creswell and Clark, 2011). The main benefits of this kind of study are connected with the possibility to overcome the challenges of qualitative and quantitative research methods and take the best ideas from these two different methods. For example, qualitative research has to be subjective and includes the descriptions of observations, and quantitative research should maintain some numbers and the results of the work done. Mixed-methodology research makes it possible to start with some portion of a qualitative analysis and prove the ideas offered with the help of quantitative data. In other words, more data, evidence, and approaches can be offered to disclose the topic in a mixed-methodology study.
Methods of Triangulation
Triangulation is the method during the process of which it is possible to combine several qualitative and quantitative research techniques or use several qualitative methods at the same time. Creswell and Clark (2011) introduce triangulation as hybrid research where “a method and a philosophical worldview” can be offered in order to “reinforce the idea that this approach is more than simply methods and ties into other facets of research” (p. 22). Triangulation enhances the analysis and interprets findings in the most appropriate for a researcher way. Multiple sources and methods should not confuse the researcher but create a powerful background and underline the topic that is under the researcher’s consideration. Triangulation may be in terms of the data that is used in the study (time, space, and people involved), the number of researchers (when more than one investigator is involved), the presence of a theoretical variety (when several theoretical approaches can be used to interpret an issue), and the use of methods that can be chosen by a researcher (interviews, case studies, observations, artifacts, articles, questionnaires, etc.).
Quantitative-qualitative studies turn out to be one of the possible methods that researchers can use in their investigations. The chosen approach identifies the order of the work that can be done incorporating the elements of both methods (Elmoselhy, 2015). It means that the project begins with some quantitative techniques like the results of the surveys offered online, organized over the phone, or introduced on paper, the facts from audits and reports that introduce the current shifts regarding the numbers achieved during the different periods of time. As soon as some of these methods are used, it is possible to prove the effectiveness of the results with the help of qualitative facts. In-depth interviews, observations, and debriefings can be used by the researcher. In other words, this type of studies is based on the necessity to use numbers and explain their meanings with the help of theories.
Qualitative-quantitative studies may be interpreted as the opposition to the studies discussed above. Instead of using qualitative techniques in order to prove the worth of quantitative research methods, it is suggested to use qualitative research methods as the basis for the studies and quantitative research methods as the evidence to the ideas offered. This type of study seems to be more successful due to the possibility to create a theory and test its appropriateness in a particular environment. The chosen approach may be based on the evaluation of different literary sources, the information taken from in-depth interviews or observations, the results of questionnaires. In brief, the numbers prove the worth of the words used in the study.
Choice and Research Questions
The differences between these two types of studies are evident and cannot be neglected. As soon as the researcher makes a decision concerning what research study should be used, the list of activities and possible research questions can be formulated. Regarding the possibility to prove the importance of numbers in a particular theory, quantitative-qualitative studies can be used in order to touch upon the philosophical aspect of the project not the methodological one and answer such question as “Is it enough to hire ten new people to promote the changes in the human resource department and increase the socio-cultural benefits of a company?”. On the one hand, a certain number of people have to be considered to make the change possible by means of comparing the latest achievement and innovations discussed in reports. On the other, the possibility to touch upon the social and cultural aspects of the work and discuss the importance of the changes can be observed. “Can the latest technological innovations based on the implementation of iPads in the classrooms improve the ratings of student satisfaction and retention in universities?”. This question can be offered to the researcher, who prefers the qualitative-quantitative study and explains the necessity of research. Such question requires the evaluation of such aspects as technological innovations (the iPad initiative in particular), student satisfaction, and university student retention rates and the attention to the numbers that can be taken from the reports in order to prove the effectiveness of the discussions raised.
Mixed Methodology vs. Qualitative Design
The comparison of the mixed methodology and a purely qualitative design may help to identify may help to identify the strong and weak aspects of both methods and clarify what method can be preferable and why. A qualitative research method is beneficial due to the possibility to understand a problem first and explain its importance during the working process. In a mixed-methodological study, it is not enough to understand the problem. It is more important to provide numbers to prove the correctness of the choice made and use literature and observations to create a basis for the evaluation. Still, it is necessary to understand that the mixed methodology requires more time and efforts to be properly organized. The researcher has to organize and analyze two different approaches, create several hypotheses, and introduce the research questions according to the requirements set by the developers of the mixed methodology. Therefore, if the researcher lacks the time or the sources to investigate a topic deeply, it is better to focus on a qualitative research method. At the same time, there is a fact that the qualitative methods are used to justify and interpret the results of the study, and the mixed methodology is not only the possibility to interpret the results but also to test the conclusions that are made in the study. Mixed methods help to overcome the limitations of a qualitative study.
Legal Aspect of Methods
There are many laws and orders that have to be followed by qualitative and quantitative researchers. As a rule, legal considerations depend on the sphere research is conducted in. For example, medical or health-related investigations are usually supported by the government. These regulations define the conduct that should be chosen by a researcher. Qualitative researchers deal with such concepts as a liability, confidentiality, and informed consent. If there are special statutes or codes, they have to be followed. Quantitative researchers have to comprehend the impact of the findings and results offered. Statistics should be properly referenced in order not to be blamed for plagiarism. Questionnaires or other forms of communication with the participants have to be discussed beforehand because the way of how the researcher informs the participants about the intentions of the work (covert or overt methods) should be clarified. Depending on the regions where investigations are developed, the participants are able to protect their rights and create legally approved agreements to identify what kind of information they should give and ask from the researcher and if the researcher can use covert observations, and what are the conditions for overt observations.
Ethical Aspect of Methods
Ethical issues are usually present in any kind of research because these aspects help to clarify the relations between the aims of the work that has to be done for good and the rights of the participants that have to be met. The discussions about the violations of human rights in order to conduct qualitative or quantitative scientific research took place for a long period of time. People could not understand how to protect their rights and promote the idea of a confidential participation in research. Qualitative researchers try to explore, examine, and describe people within their natural environment. Still, if covert observations take place, the privacy of people, as well as many other ethical aspects, remains to be neglected. Quantitative researchers have to be careful with various ethical considerations. For example, such cases as the falsification or fabrication of the facts put the quality of the project under a question. Researchers have to understand that their main task is not to do harm for research participants and realize that their findings can influence the quality of a human life and the decisions people can make.
Socio-Cultural Aspect of Methods
Finally, there are certain socio-cultural aspects that can define the quality and the way of how qualitative and quantitative studies are organized. The peculiar feature of the socio-cultural aspect is the possibility to relate the results of the study with an actual situation. People can use the suggestions and recommendations offered on the basis of research offered. Their lives and any changes may depend on the worth of the information offered. Besides, it is necessary to consider such factors as gender, race, and cultural preferences while conducting qualitative or quantitative research. A certain attention should be paid to overt and covert observations and gender differences because not all women are eager to be observed by male researchers and vice versa.
In general, the peculiarities of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research methods prove the importance to focus on the details of the work that has to be performed by researchers. It is not enough to identify the goals of the study and introduce research questions that have to be answered. It is also important to know all ethical, legal, and socio-cultural considerations that influence the results of the study and its worth for society. Any researcher usually works with ordinary people, who have their rights and expectations. The researcher cannot neglect these aspects and make the research decision in regards to personal abilities and knowledge, time available, and the material that can be actually used in the study.
Bernard, H.R. (2012). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education. New York, NY: Routledge.
Creswell, J.W. & Clark, V.L.P. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Elmoselhy, S.A.M. (2015). Design for profitability: Guidelines to cost effectively manage the development process of complex products. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Patton, M.Q. (2014). Qualitative research & evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Taylor, S.J., Bogdan, R., & DeVault, M. (2015). Introduction to qualitative research methods: A guidebook and resource. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.