Quantitative vs Qualitative Research Methodologies

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First post

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Quantitative research originates from the positivist paradigm (Keele, 2012). Some main tenets of the positivist worldview are that a single reality exists and can be measured, cause and effect relationships can be tested, and research can be conducted objectively (Keele, 2012). According to Polit and Beck (2016), positivism was the paradigm that dominated nursing research for decades. Quantitative research is a “formal, objective, deductive approach to problem-solving” (Keele, 2012, p. 35). Other characteristics of quantitative research include numbers and statistical analyses, theory testing, and a concise and narrow focus (Keele, 2012). The four quantitative designs are descriptive, correlational, quasi-experimental, and experimental (Keele, 2012). According to Keele (2012), “descriptive studies are designed to gain more information about characteristics of a topic of interest” and “is most appropriate when very little research is available on the topic” (p. 38). Correlational designs are used to study relationships between variables (Keele, 2012). Quasi-experimental designs are used to examine causality but lack the randomization of the sample (Keele, 2012). Experimental designs, also known as randomized control trials (RCTs), are the “gold standard for research and evidence-based nursing practice” (Keele, 2012, p. 41). Experimental designs must include randomization of samples, control of treatment/intervention, and treatment and control groups (Keele, 2012). Quantitative research is considered a hard science (Keele, 2012).

Qualitative research originates from the naturalist paradigm (Keele, 2012). A main tenet of the naturalist worldview is that “there are multiple realities that are continually changing, which make it very difficult to measure” (Keele, 2012, p. 35). Other assumptions of the naturalist worldview are that research is subjective, findings cannot be generalized beyond the study sample, and cause and effect relationships can not be tested (Keele, 2012). Qualitative research is an “informal, subjective, inductive approach to problem-solving” (Keele, 2012, p. 35). Other characteristics of qualitative research include a complex and broad focus, theory development, words, and narrative as the basis of analysis, and meaning and discovery as the basis of knowing (Keele, 2012). The most common qualitative designs are phenomenology, grounded theory, and ethnography. Phenomenology is used to explore everyday life experiences (Keele, 2012). Grounded theory is utilized to develop a theory (Keele, 2012). Ethnography focuses on the culture of a group of people (Keele, 2012). Qualitative research is considered a soft science (Keele, 2012)


second post

Quantitative research developed from the positivism nursing paradigm (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 9). “Adherents of positivism assume that nature is basically ordered and regular and that reality exists independent of human observation” (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 9). Furthermore, “the positivists’ scientific approach involves using orderly, disciplined procedures with tight controls of the research situation to test hunches about the phenomena being studied” (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 9). Quantitative researchers use a systematic approach, implementing control strategies in order to gather empirical evidence, or objective data obtained via the senses (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 11). Keele (2012) further defines quantitative research as an objective process utilizing deductive reasoning and statistical analysis to test theories concerning observed cause and effect relationships in a single reality (p. 36). There are four types of quantitative research design, descriptive, correlational, quasi-experimental, and experimental (Keele, 2012, p. 38). Each is preceded by a level of research questions (Dickoff & James, 1968, as cited in Keele, 2012, p. 38). Level one questions consist of factor-isolating questions, which are best answered using descriptive studies (Keele, 2012, p. 38). “Descriptive studies are designed to gain more information about characteristics of a topic of interest” (Keele, 2012, p. 38). Level two, or factor-relating questions, use correlational study designs to answer questions about relationships between factors (Keele, 2012, p. 39). Furthermore, situation-relating questions are categorized into level three (Keele, 2012, p. 40). “These types of questions are best answered through quasi-experimental designs where the researcher is evaluating some intervention” (Keele, 2012, p. 40). Lastly, “situation-producing researchable questions are the highest level of inquiry, requiring the most control by the researcher” (Keele, 2012, p. 41). Therefore, a more structured and regulated research design is needed. “Often called a randomized control trial (RCT), and experimental research design is the “gold standard” for research and evidence-based nursing practice” (Keele, 2012, p. 41). No matter what quantitative research design is used, both external and internal validity are needed to measure the success of a study (Keele, 2012, p. 42). “Internal validity refers to whether or not the manipulation of the independent variable really makes a significant difference in the dependent variable” (Keele, 2012, p. 42). Whereas, external validity refers to how well the study’s findings can be generalized and applied to a larger population (Keele, 2012, p. 42).

Qualitative research was birthed out of the constructivist paradigm (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 12). “Researchers in constructivist traditions emphasize the inherent complexity of humans, their ability to shape and create their own experiences, and the idea that truth is a composite of realities” (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 12). As a result, qualitative research entails the gathering of narratives and subjective data in order to understand the human experience (Polit & Beck, 2016, p. 12). This method of research is contrasting to that of quantitative research, which utilizes statistical analysis an objective data (Keele, 2012, p. 36). Keele (2012) discusses three of the most widely used qualitative designs, ethnography, phenomenology, and grounded theory (p. 44). “Ethnographies focus on studying the culture of a group of people” (Keele, 2012, p. 47). “They involve the description and interpretation of that culture’s behavior” (Keele, 2012, p. 47). Additionally, “phenomenology is an approach to exploring people’s everyday life experiences” (Keele, 2012, p. 46). Finally, grounded theory uncovers patterns that facilitate further date collection and apply meaning to a study’s outcomes (Keele, 2012, p. 47). Furthermore, like internal and external validity in quantitative research, the success of a qualitative study is measured by truth-value and applicability. “To achieve truth-value, a qualitative study must present a faithful description or interpretation of the human experience so that people having that experience can identify with it” (Keele, 2012, p. 49). A qualitative study’s applicability refers to its generalizability and how well it can be applied to larger sample size, similar to external validity (Keele, 2012, p. 49).

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