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Critical Analysis of Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Introduction

Qualitative research is not precise and sometimes looks vague because of the extreme broadness of the area to be covered, hence the difficulty in defining it. Firestone (1987, p.17) states that qualitative research methods are established on a “post-positivistic, phenomenological world view”, with assumptions that social constructs define reality within individual and group definitions of the state of affairs. This is why many research scholars have agreed that the qualitative research method has no distinct or concise definitions. However, despite its ambiguous definitions, qualitative research has received a lot of attention in the last decade almost at equal measure with quantitative research. Many researchers, particularly those in the field of social science have taken it as the best alternative to fill the void left by quantitative research.

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The quantitative research method is used to collect quantitative data. These are data that are easy to sort, classify and measure with more objectivity. The fact that quantitative data is measurable makes it easy to describe accurately using a set of procedural rules. This makes it less ambiguous as compared to qualitative research methods. In practice, quantitative research has proved to be much more objective as well as systematic in nature. Being connected to the perspective of positivism, quantitative data can be replicated and at the same time another different researcher can recollect the same sets of data and come up with similar results. Quantitative data is based on the belief that there are real facts in the social setting with objectives separate from what individuals or an individual can believe. Quantitative research methods rely on the statistical data that is eventually analyzed with the help of some statistical tools, which reduces the probable error or bias in the end result.

Advantages and Disadvantages of two Research Methods

The common link between quantitative and qualitative research methods is that they both concentrate on finding biasness and each tends to be objective, replicable, reliable, and vigorous scientifically. Researchers who rely more on quantitative research methods are aided by the belief that quantitative data gives the most factual information when analyzed with the help of computerized statistical packages software. Qualitative research on the other hand relies on the transcripts, records from interviews, focus group discussions.

Quantitative research is considered important because of its objective nature since the variables are measurable and comparable. However, the results of the research may be biased as the researcher may be too focused on his or her perspective. Researchers should strive to keep off their subjects. The methods in quantitative research are more direct and can be easily replicated due to their reliability when properly explained in detail (Firestone, 1987). The research background is normally not natural as researchers create an “artificial” background so as to be able to control all the variables in use. The most prominent argument against the quantitative research method is that it’s basically focused on inhuman interrelations; hence can be categorized as management research where important areas that are not measurable objectively and needs direct observations have been ignored or given a peripheral treatment.

Critique of the Quantitative Study

Research Question/Problem

The research topic was to establish donor factors that influence the number of organs transplanted per donor. The research question was, “What were the factors that influenced the number of organs transplanted per donor, considering their demographics, medical and social history?” Although this research question was not clearly defined, it could be derived from the research objectives that outlined its intention.

The question is very specific in design and focuses on measurable variables of the number of donors involved in the study and organs transplanted. This research question is easy to explain since its very objective in nature, hence has a specific line of thinking that is controlled by specific perspectives. The dependent variables in this study were such factors as age, sex, diseases, body mass index and access to high-risk behaviors such as alcohol consumption. The independent variables on the other hand included the number of respondents and race, which proved statistically insignificant in the analysis. To set up an artificial base for the research, the team hired five designated donors who were excluded from the duty to act as a control variable for the results. It is difficult to judge whether the results reflect what the real world is as far as factors that influence them are concerned. To do this, they reduced the findings into short statistical statements to reflect the findings.

Research Design

The use of questionnaires was critical as the researchers were able to quantitatively measure some parameters to ensure verification of all the data collected during the informal sessions. However, considering the fact that questionnaires used are restricting the respondents to specific ways of thinking, it could be deemed narrow and unrealistic as it only allowed for the capturing of a tiny portion of the concepts under this study. At this juncture, one lingering question would be whether the research question is exhaustively answered as the researcher may have claimed; hence the low validity of the design.

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Sampling Method

The researchers reviewed the medical records of 777 donors between 2003 and 2007 (Olson & Cravero, 2009, p.260). The application of medical and social histories of the study sample was followed by a categorization of the sample between 1 to 4 groups; i.e. all donors, SCD, DCD, and ECD. However, five donors were excluded from the study because they lacked medical and social history. In this way, it is possible to state that the researchers were biased in selecting or directing only parts of the sample they wanted hence keeping the real-world information at stake. Furthermore, the researchers presented their views in a narrow perspective of their own judgments and view.

Study Results/ Findings

Findings revealed that donor’s age emerged as a significant role player in the prediction of the number of organs transplanted per donor. Except for the 11-year-old and below, the number of organs donated decreased with increase in age (Olson & Cravero, 2009, p.261). The donor sex is also known to play significant role in the number of organs the two donated. In the results, women were less likely to donate due to their high risk of non-traumatic injuries. Other issues like donor race were not considered statistically insignificant. The findings that race is insignificant is a clear indicator of the fact that some of the findings may be statistically significant but insignificant in the normal human setting.

The study strength and weakness

The fact that research isolated certain specific variables within the study framework provides an indication of how it has helped to see how the variables correlate and relate to each other in terms of factors that cause donors’ behaviors. The findings also indicate that the statistical information found can be used to further other related studies or replicated, consequently giving the basis to begin another similar study to back the present with numerical facts.

The researchers seemed biased in the selection of samples is a clear manifestation of how the methodology can cause a gap within a research result. The researchers ignored the racial balance by not involving the white population, hence rendering the racial variance useless. The study has low validity as far as measured parameters, scope and perception of the researcher are concerned.

Critique the qualitative study

Research Question/Problem and Purpose

The overall research question can be summarized as; what are the needs of families faced with option of organ donation? The purpose of this study is to gain an in-depth understanding of specific support as far as theoretical framework is concerned (Jacoby, Breitkopf & Pease, 2005, p.183). Several factors have been known to influence the decision-making process in a family as far critical matters of organ donation are concerned. Some of these factors are how the request has been presented, how well the family members understand brain death, etc. However, the donor and no-donor perception of the support they receive from family members has received little attention as far as the evidence is concerned. In other words, the precise and subtle nature of quantitative research has not revealed much as far as broad view of the process is concerned. Qualitative research hence offers the opportunity to fill this gap.

Sampling Method

Focus group methodology was used in this study. A Focus group involves the systematic selection of a specific section of the population to engage in a directed or focused form of discussion. The sampled data followed a three-step process for gathering information in the form of descriptions, review of the descriptive data, and finally how the themes were interrelated in the whole process. This study was able to achieve its intended goal through medical board approval.

Data Collection

Focus group sessions were held separately with donor family members, where two, four and five participants were engaged in that order. The locations were subdivided into three. The two separate sessions were held with non-donor families with 2 and 3 participants respectively. The audio-taped sessions were then transcribed to allow easy analysis after the data gathering (Jacoby, Breitkopf & Pease, 2005, p.184). Open-ended questions were asked and participants were given time to narrate stories. The data interpretation and analysis were conducted with the help of an independent reviewer who helped in the verification process. Codes were assigned to each set of data themes that were classified according to various sources such as the source, time, and location of the data source.

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Discussion

Qualitative research provides a lot of depth as well as detailed information, which sometimes might be abstract in nature. Additionally, the standard questionnaire may be useful in this research as it is likely to give little depth as shown by the article. Although it can give a little generalization of the results, its openness is important as it can help generate new theories as well as recognize some phenomenal aspects of research findings usually ignored by quantitative research. Aggregation of data in this research method is generally difficult and may make it difficult to compare data systematically. The openness of the questions helps researchers and those who rely on the research findings develop a worldview approach to interpretation. The setting for the research is normally a choice of the researcher, who will make judgments on what population to approach for such a research initiative. The fact that qualitative research has no specific structured or standardized design makes it difficult to replicate or adopt.

Conclusions

There is a clear indication that both qualitative and quantitative research cannot have unified research criteria, and that each one of them has a unique approach in design. However, studies have shown that quantitative and qualitative research methods can complement each other even though they are widely different in design and implementation. It, therefore, follows that we need to acknowledge the fact that the dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms is that they complement each other.

Trustworthiness of the Data

The context of this study presented a criterion to conclude that the research method used here was credible and reliable. The mix of methods applied ensured some form of checks and balances in the research design as the findings indicate that the results were synthesized to the understanding that each qualitative research presents a unique perspective of this topic.

However, a critical meta-analysis of the raw data from this study is difficult as there is little assurance that the data would provide any clear distinction from any other from a different design. This is particularly problematic when one attempts to transfer the methodology used in this study. But the results are auditable as was shown in this study. That is, the results are uniquely dependable because the sampling procedure specifically targeted the intended respondents, with a clear-cut information acquisition. Further dependability and confirmability were achieved through the use of audiotape to ascertain the source of information.

The rationale for this research is based on the belief that the qualitative research quality can never be assured through a generic approach to data collection and analysis but designing is a unique step. Furthermore, the subjective approach to the analysis was important as the researchers and readers of the research findings can analyze the results in their views.

Summary

Quantitative research is linked to the real facts away from individual beliefs. This is why it relies on the statistical figures in the form of data, normally analyzed with the help of statistical tools to reduce the bias. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research has no precise methodology, hence lacking precision in terms of statistical numerical. Instead, it is based on the social constructs that define individuals’ or groups’ realistic views.

The quantitative research by Olson & Cravero indicates that quantitative research is easy to replicate and has true statistical backups to support the hypothesis developed. However, the quantitative data cannot produce a wide view of the findings that making it inappropriate where a bigger picture of an issue is expected. This is limiting its scope of applicability, thus low validity.

Qualitative research gives a broader view of the results found. Its wider scope gives the researcher more opportunity to analyze the results in a more natural setting as the data is collected in a more natural setting. The open-ended questions used in Jacoby, Breitkopf & Pease’s study gave respondents time and space to broaden their views. However, the way the data was aggregated makes it difficult to make any systematic comparison and any adoption cannot be easily achieved.

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Reference List

Firestone, W.A. 1987. Meaning in the Method: The Rhetoric of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Educational Researcher, Vol.16, p. 16-21.

Jacoby, L.H., Breitkopf, C.R., & Pease, E.A. (2005). A Qualitative examination of the needs of families faced with the option of organ donation. Dimensional Critical Nursing, 24 (4): 183-189.

Olson, L., & Cravero, L. (2009). Donors factors that affect the number of organs transplanted per donor. Progress in Transplantation, 19: 259-266.

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