The choice of the research approach depends on the goals set and the questions to be answered. The two approaches are based on two quite different philosophical paradigms. In terms of the qualitative philosophical view, it is believed that there are multiple realities, which creates various contexts that should be taken into account or even brought to the fore (Creswell, 2012). When it comes to the quantitative paradigm, it is believed that there is only one reality and all assumptions should be and can be tested (Hoepfl, 1997).
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Researchers employing qualitative designs focus on contexts and assumptions while those utilizing quantitative approach are more concerned with quantifiable and generalizable data. The former need opinions and contexts to understand the nature of the trends and events explaining the reason of their occurrence. The latter are concentrated on measuring existing trends and identifying correlations that can be easily checked through quantifiable data.
Importantly, researchers using quantitative methods rely on existing theories while those utilizing qualitative approaches often come up with new theories without heavily relying on existing paradigms.
One of the most meaningful aspects of the qualitative paradigm is the focus on contexts. It is not enough to acknowledge some trends. It is often much more important to understand why something is happening than simply measuring the extent to which something is changing. It is also beneficial to use the qualitative methodology as multiple contexts are taken into account, which helps identify aspects shared and differences existing. The research often involves people, and it is the human nature to have different perspectives, which means it is crucial to look at issues from different angles. The use of multiple opinions and perspectives ensures the validity of the theories created and conclusions made as researchers have an opportunity to check their theories simply focusing on another facet of the issue.
Applying Qualitative Research Methodology
Qualitative research concentrates on meanings, opinions and contexts. Patton (2014) stresses that qualitative inquiries help understand the society and humans better. Thus, the spheres where qualitative designs are applicable include psychology, sociology and any other sphere concerned with people’s behaviors. When a researcher concentrates on meanings and reasons for certain behavior, the qualitative paradigm is applicable. Ravitch and Mittenfelner Carl (2015) define the qualitative approach as the paradigm that helps examine the way people experience and see the world around them.
There are many reasons for choosing the qualitative methodology. If the researcher is interested in identifying the reasons for some trends (events, behavior and so on), the qualitative research method will be instrumental in this process. The researcher should choose this approach if it is important to explain people’s behavior and choices made. When comparing some trends, it is also necessary to choose qualitative designs as the researcher is able to take into account multiple contexts that affect the trends under study.
There are many disciplines where the qualitative methodology is commonly used and sometimes is preferable. These disciplines include sociology, psychology, history, languages and the rest of the subjects within the humanities studies. These disciplines are mainly concerned with meanings and contexts. Qualitative methods are also preferable in disciplines associated with management, public relations, advertising and so on. Researchers often need to identify the background for the decision-making process, and the focus on contexts, assumptions and beliefs is critical in such cases. Therefore, the qualitative approach is the most applicable in these disciplines if the focus is on people’s behaviors and mindsets.
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Creswell, J.W. (2012). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Hoepfl, M.C. (1997). Choosing qualitative research: A primer for technology education researchers. Journal of Technology Education, 9(1), 47-63.
Patton, M.Q. (2014). Qualitative research & evaluation methods: Integrating theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Ravitch, S.M., & Mittenfelner Carl, N. (2015). Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.