Quantitative and Qualitative Research

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  • 5/17/2018 Quantitative and Qualitative Research



    KATSUKO lIARAThe Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of Toronto252 Bloor Street WestToronto, OntarioCanada M5S N6

    In this paper, I have discussed the quantitative research approach in con-Hast to the qualitative research approach in education. In discus sing bothapproaches, I have argued the concepts behind them and their strongpaints as well as their weak points. Both approaches have strengths andweaknesses and each approach is particularly appropriate for certainresearch goals. The quantitative research approach is appropriate in someresearch but the qualitative research approach is more suitable for others.Introduction

    Quantitative and qualitative researchapproaches in education have arisen from dif-ferent research needs. The quantitative researchapproach endlessly pursues facts while thequalitative research approach recognizes thatthe researcher's viewpoint is central. The quan-titative research approach is used when theresearcher desires to obtain entire trends or sta-tistical truth in the research while th e qualitativeresearch approach is used if the researcherwants to observe in detail by his/her ownresearch viewpoint.

    In this paper, I attempt to examine what isinherently different between the quantitativeand qualitative research approaches in educa-tion. First of all, Iattempt to investigate theconcepts behind both research approachesfocusing on their origins and underlyingphilosophies. And, then, Ittempt to discuss th estrengths and weakness of both approaches.

    What is Behind the Concept ofQuantitative Research in Education?Quantitative research in education devel-

    oped from the quantitative research used innatural science (Carr &Kemmis, 1986). Carrand Kemmis (1986) explain that there weretwo reasons for accepting the quantitativeresearch of natural science into the education-

    al research area. First, the concepts, purposesand methods of quantitative research used innatural science were applicable to the educa-tion research area and second, it was able toprovide logical standards for educationalresearch. From the quantitative research of nat-ural science, the firm conviction has arisen thatto investigate and to make explicit definitionsof facts were of primary importance in doingeducation research. There was a research goalto find out universal truth in the quantitativeresearch used in natural science. Quantitativeresearch in education has, thus, attempted todiscover existing facts under the research beliefthat the research act must be a neutral activityfrom the researchers subjective viewpoint(Smith, 1983) . "Thus ,Smith (1983) places quan-titative research as a "journey of the facts"(p.lO).

    According to Smith, there was a belief that"neutral, scientific language" (p.9) must beused in quantitative research in order to find outexact facts. Neutral scientific language meansto express the research itself by digits whichwas universally acceptable and had unchangedfunction in all research environments. It wasbelieved that using neutral scientific languagewas effective not only for providing the researchfacts but also for explaining the statistical truth,In addition, neutral scientific language was


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    3521 Education Vol. 115 NO.3

    able to directly show the results of researchwithout a researcher's value judgments. Thatis 10 say. the research results existed in isola-tion from the researcher's viewpoint In Carrand Kernmis' s (1986) words, a researcher w asconsidered to be "an outsider to the research"or an objective observer,

    In sum, the quantitative research in educa-tion emp ha siz es th e discovery of existing factsby emp loyi ng n eu tr al s ci en tif ic language. Philo-sophically, this view is based on a"subject-object relationship" (Smith, 1983 , p .S )in which human reality is able to be isolatedan d exists independently from the researcher'sSUbjectivity. The results of the data analysis,therefore, are presented in a numerical andobjective way, The research goal of quantitativeresearch is a discovery of universal value. Uni-versal value means that the research value isuniversally applicable regardless o f t ime , p la ce ,culture an d other factors, This concept is large,ly linked to the generalizability of research. Inquantitative research, in order to make gener-alizability, objectivity of the research isparticularly emphasized by using neutral sci-entific language.

    What is Behind the Concept ofQualitative Research in Education?In contrast to quantitative research in edu-

    cation, qualitative research in educationrecognizes that the researcher's subjectivitydeeply affects the research. Qualitative researchin education came into existence as a result ofcriticisms of quantitative research in education.Quantitative researchers in education often haveencountered difficulties in expressing their datawhen using only the quantitative way Theresearchers, therefore, have attempted to devel-op new paradigms based on the notions thatmissing in quantitative research in educationwa s th e a bility to integrate the researcher's view-points into the research, Qualitative research ineducation, thus, accepted the researcher's viewpoint as a crucial factor of the research.

    Qualitative research in education, thus,maintains that the researcher's subjectivity isc en tr al . I n consequence, to e re se arc he r's v iew -point and value ju dgmen ts a re d ee ply connectedto the research, In this view, the relationship ofresearcher and what is being researched isimpossible to separate. In other words , what aresearcher chooses to study is related to his/hervalue judgment. There is a belief thai researchfacts and researcher's value judgments or inter-pretations of the research cannot existseparately. Rather, facts and the researcher'sviewpoint are inextricably intertwined witheach other. That is to say, a researcher is con-sidered to be "an insider to the research" (Carra nd K emm is. 1 98 6). Philosophically, th is v ic' '' vis based on a "subject-subject relationship"(Smith, 1983, p.S) in which human reality issubjective. There is a belief that the researcheracts on the basis of his/her own value.

    What are the Strengths of RothResearch Approaches?

    As explained previously, the ultimate goalof the quantitative research appro ach is to fin dout the facts which exist in the reality. Thequantitative researcher, thus, uses a statisticalprocedure,The strength of the quantitative researchapproach in education is that the researchresults are derived by discovering exact factsand, therefore, the same research methods andth e results are generalized, In other words, itcan be applied to a large number of other sit-uations because it is objective and value free(Soltis, 1990). That is to say, a researcher'ssubjectivity is separate from the research andthe research is able to show exact facts objet>tively, In Smith's words, the value is "free"from researcher's perspective.

    Popkcwitz (1984) points out some strongpoints of the quantitative research approach ineducation, They arc first, the theory is not con-text-bound but is universal. It consists ofaxiomatic principles, Second, theory is con-

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    sidered to be value-free, R eaders, thus, m ayjudge or understand the facts w ithout know -in g th e re sea rche r's v alue jud gm en t T hird , theuse of m athem atica l sta tistica l an aly sis c anre duc e am big uitie s an d c on trad ictio ns w hichw ould exist in the research. T hus, it i s po ss i-b le to b e g en era liz ed .

    In con trast to th is a pp ro ac h, th e q ua lit ati veresearch approach is verbally expressed indetail t owa rd r es ea rch aims. In th is a pp ro ac h,the researcher is placed as a key point ofr es ea rch . I n cons equence , the r es ea rche r's p e r-s on a! k now l ed ge and r es ea rc h exp er ie nc e fu ll yin flu en ce th e re se arc h (Ma an en , ed. 1979).

    One strength of the qualita tiv e researcha pp ro ac h in e du ca tio n is that it i s ab le to empha-siz e th e re se arc he r's v iew po in t in th e re se arc hp ro ce ss a s w e ll a s o n its re su lts. S olu te s (1990)s ta te s t ha t th e q ua lita tiv e re se arc h a pp ro ac h ineducation is able to encompass interpersonal ,s oc ia l, a nd cultu ra l c on te xts o f e du ca tio n morefu lly th an th e q ua ntita tiv e re se arc h a pp ro ac h.T he researcher's view point is clearly placedon the research and researcher is able to p ro-v id e mo re r ie be r and wider -ranging descr ip t ionth an in t he q uant ita tiv e r es ea rc h a pp ro ac h. C a rrand Kemmis (1986) sta le th at q ua lita tiv ere se ar ch a pp ro ac h is ''to provide a fo rm o f the r-apeutic self-know ledge w hich w ill liberatein div id ua ls from th e irra tio na l c om p uls io ns"(p.138).

    T he other strength of this approach is thatit is able to explain th e p sy ch olo g ic al d im en-sio ns o f h um a n b ein gs w h ic h a re im p ossib le tor ep re sen t numbe ri ca ll y in a quantit at iv e way .Educational research w eaves a com plex w eba nd som e issu es are d iffic ult to so lv e in a q ua n-tita tiv e sta tistic al w a y. T he re a re lim ita tio ns ina num erical presentation in the com plexity ofhum an behavior o ften investigated in educa-t ional research (Sulutes, 1990). The quanti tat iveresearch approach often has difficulties inexpressing the problem s particularly if theresearcher deals w i th th e p sy ch olo gi ca l d im en-sio ns in hum an b ein gs. A qualita tiv e resea rc h

    Quantitative and Qualitative ... 1353

    ap pro ach ca n b e e xp re sse d c om prehe nsiv elyb y v erb ally a na ly zin g h um a n b eh


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