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Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY

QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES
TO SOCIAL RESEARCH Christina Hughes C.L.Hughes@warwick.ac.uk There has been widespread debate in recent years within many of the social sciences regarding the relative merits of quantitative and qualitative strategies for research. The positions taken by individual researchers vary considerably, from those who see the two strategies as entirely separate and based on alternative views of the world, to those who are happy to mix these strategies within their research projects. For example, Bryman (1988) argued for a `best of both worlds' approach and suggested that qualitative and quantitative approaches should be combined. Hughes (1997), nevertheless, warns that such technicist solutions underestimate the politics of legitimacy that are associated with choice of methods. In particular, quantitative approaches have been seen as more scientific and `objective'. In exploring issues of qualitative and quantitative research, this material builds directly on the epistemological foundations presented in the package `What is Research?' For example, in exploring the distinctions between qualitative and quantitative forms of research we need to consider the different ontological and epistemological questions we considered when discussing positivism, interpretivism and critical paradigms. Thus, on first consideration, the use of questionnaires as a research technique might be seen as a quantitative strategy, whereas interviews and observations might be thought of as qualitative techniques. Similarly, it is often assumed that quantitative approaches draw on positivist ontologies whereas qualitative approaches are more associated with interpretive and critical paradigms. A further assumption is that some critical approaches to research, such as feminism, only use qualitative approaches (see Graham, 1984; Jayrantine, 1993 to prove this assumption wrong!). And so in practice, of course, it is often more complicated than that! Thus, interviews may be structured and analysed in a quantitative manner, as when numeric data is collected or when non-numeric answers are categorized and coded in numeric form. Similarly, surveys may allow for open-ended responses and lead to the indepth study of individual cases. In addition, quantitative and qualitative approaches are strongly associated with objectivity (quantitative) and subjectivity (qualitative). These were issues that we considered in terms of the role of the researcher within the research process earlier in the course. Finally, the choice of approach is linked to the research objectives. The main aim of this package is to introduce you to, and facilitate your understanding of, the key debates concerning qualitative and quantitative approaches. The learning outcomes are: · To outline the qualitative and quantitative paradigms; · To illustrate the distinctiveness of each paradigm; · To illustrate issues of similarity between each paradigms;

· To outline the ways in which qualitative and quantitative methods can be combined; · To apply this learning to individual research projects. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE DIVIDE Read the quotations below. Draw up a list of the characteristics of qualitative and quantitative research. As long ago as 1957, Cronbach drew attention to the existence of two quite separate `disciplines of scientific psychology'. One sort of psychologist attempts to test general principles about human and animal behaviour, and is concerned with documenting average performance; the other sort of psychologist in interested in describing and interpreting individual differences, in particular with respect to various dimensions of intellectual ability, personality and psychopathology. The first sort of psychologist does experiments, typically on small samples obtained for reasons of convenience. The other sort of psychologist does larger-scale questionnaire surveys or interview studies, attempts to procure representative samples, and tends to use standard, pre-validated measures. When analysing results, the first sort of psychologist tends to compute t-tests and analyses of variance. The second sort tends to use correlation, regression, and factor-analytic techniques. (Everitt and Hay, 1992: 3-4) Quantitative research consists of those studies in which the data concerned can be analysed in terms of numbers ... Research can also be qualitative, that is, it can describe events, persons and so forth scientifically without the use of numerical data ... Quantitative research is based more directly on its original plans and its results are more readily analysed and interpreted. Qualitative research is more open and responsive to its subject. Both types of research are valid and useful. They are not mutually exclusive. It is possible for a single investigation to use both methods. (Best and Khan, 1989: 89-90) Qualitative research is harder, more stressful and more time-consuming than other types. If you want to get your MEd dissertation or whatever finished quickly and easily do a straightforward questionnaire study. Qualitative research is only suitable for people who care about it, take it seriously, and are prepared for commitment (Delamont, 1992: viii) Quantitative research is, as the term suggests, concerned with the collection and analysis of data in numeric form. It tends to emphasize relatively large-scale and representative sets of data, and is often, falsely in our view, presented or perceived as being about the gathering of `facts'. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is concerned with collecting and analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible. It tends to focus on exploring, in as much detail as possible, smaller numbers of instances or examples which are seen as being interesting or illuminating, and aims to achieve `depth' rather than `breadth'. (Blaxter, Hughes and Tight, 1996: 61) Research is a systematic investigation to find answers to a problem. Research in professional social science areas, like research in other subjects, has generally followed the traditional objective scientific method. Since the 1960s, however, a strong move towards a more qualitative, naturalistic and subjective approach has left social science research divided between two competing methods: the scientific empirical tradition, and the naturalistic phenomenological mode. In the scientific method, quantitative research methods are employed in an attempt to establish general laws or principles. Such a scientific approach is often termed nomothetic and assumes social reality is objective and external to the individual. The naturalistic approach to research emphasises the importance of the subjective experience of individuals, with a focus on qualitative analysis. Social reality is regarded as a creation of individual consciousness, with meaning and the evaluation of events seen as a personal and subjective construction. Such a focus on the individual case rather than general law-making is termed an ideographic approach. (Burns, 2000: 3)

Quantitative research is empirical research where the data are in the form of numbers. Qualitative research is empirical research where the data are not in the form of numbers. (Punch, 1998: 4) QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH KEY CHARACTERISTICS · CONTROL: This is the most important element because it enables the scientist to identify the causes of his or her observations. Experiments are conducted in an attempt to answer certain questions. They represent attempts to identify why something happens, what causes some event, or under what conditions an event does occur. Control is necessary in order to provide unambiguous answers to such questions. To answer questions in education and social science we have to eliminate the simultaneous influence of many variables to isolate the cause of an effect. Controlled inquiry is absolutely essential to this because without it the cause of an effect could not be isolated. · OPERATIONAL DEFINITION: This means that terms must be defined by the steps or operations used to measure them. Such a procedure is necessary to eliminate any confusion in meaning and communication. Consider the statement `Anxiety causes students to score poorly in tests'. One might ask, `What is meant by anxiety?' Stating that anxiety refers to being tense or some other such term only adds to the confusion. However, stating that anxiety refers to a score over a criterion level on an anxiety scale enables others to realise what you mean by anxiety. Stating an operational definition forces one to identify the empirical referents, or terms. In this manner, ambiguity is minimised. Again, introversion may be defined as a score on a particular personality scale, hunger as so many hours since last fed, and social class as defined by occupation. · REPLICATION: To be replicable, the data obtained in an experiment must be reliable; that is, the same result must be found if the study is repeated. If observations are not repeatable, our descriptions and explanations are thought to be unreliable. · HYPOTHESIS TESTING: The systematic creation of a hypothesis and subjecting it to an empirical test. (Adapted from Burns, 2000: 6-7) QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS STRENGTHS · Precision - through quantitative and reliable measurement · Control - through sampling and design · Ability to produce causality statements, through the use of controlled experiments · Statistical techniques allow for sophisticated analyses · Replicable LIMITATIONS · Because of the complexity of human experience it is difficult to rule out or control all the variables;

· It fails to take account of people's unique ability to interpret their experiences. Therefore.· Because of human agency people do not all respond in the same ways as inert matter in the physical sciences. they are natural. to provide their perspectives in words and other actions. construct their own meanings and act on these. There is no one general method. · Qualitative methods are appropriate to the above statements. · Its mechanistic ethos tends to exclude notions of freedom. · Qualitative researchers attend to the experience as a whole. The aim of qualitative research is to understand experience as unified. · The contexts of inquiry are not contrived. What is meant by this statement? (Adapted from Burns. · Qualitative researchers want those who are studied to speak for themselves. Questions to consider · Why are only testable ideas of worth in science? · Scientific study is empirical and objective. Therefore. a qualitative researcher immerses her/himself in the setting. Nothing is predefined or taken for granted. QUALITATIVE APPROACHES STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS . the process entails appraisal about what was studied. has the aim of understanding experience as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it.. Ely et al add the following from Sherman and Webb (1988) to their definition: Qualitative implies a direct concern with experience as it is `lived' or `felt' or `undergone' . Qualitative research.. not as separate variables. · For many qualitative researchers. · Quantification can become an end in itself. · It is not totally objective because the researcher is subjectively involved in the very choice of a problem as worthy of investigation and in the interpretation of the results. 2000: 9-10) QUALITATIVE RESEARCH KEY CHARACTERISTICS · Events can be understood adequately only if they are seen in context. · It leads to the assumption that facts are true and the same for all people all of the time. then. choice and moral responsibility. · Quantitative research often produces banal and trivial findings of little consequence due to the restriction on and the controlling of variables. qualitative research is an interactive process in which the persons studied teach the researcher about their lives.

2000: 13-14) QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES TO SOCIAL RESEARCH THE SIMILARITIES · Whilst quantitative research may be mostly used for testing theory it can also be used for exploring an area and generating hypotheses and theory. this research might be of particular benefit to the practitioner as she or he could turn to qualitative reports in order to examine forms of knowledge that might otherwise be unavailable. causes. · The viewpoints of both researcher and participants have to be identified and elucidated because of issues of bias. narrative style. situations. Questions to consider · What is meant by `deep' when referring to qualitative data? · How limiting is the problem of non-replication? (Adapted from Burns. analysis and interpretation is lengthy. but rather qualitative research uses a more descriptive. the researcher gains an insider's view of the field. conditions and interactions cannot be replicated to any extent nor can generalisations be made to a wider context than the one studied with any confidence. Because of the subjective nature of qualitative data and its origin in single contexts. STRENGTHS · Because of close researcher involvement. · Contexts. events. thereby gaining new insight. · Qualitative research adds flesh and blood to social analysis. · Issues of anonymity and confidentiality present problems when selecting findings.LIMITATIONS · The problem of adequate validity or reliability is a major criticism. · Similarly qualitative research can be used for testing hypotheses and theories even though it is mostly used for theory generation. . · Because statistics are not used. effects and dynamic processes. it is difficult to apply conventional standards of reliability and validity. · The time required for data collection. · Researcher's presence has a profound effect on the subjects of study. This allows the researcher to find issues that are often missed (such as subtleties and complexities) by the scientific. · Qualitative descriptions can play the important role of suggesting possible relationships. more positivistic enquiries.

Qualitative research may facilitate the interpretation of relationships between variables . act as a source of hypotheses. 1998: 247) QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE APPROACHES: . aid scale construction. Quantitative research readily allows the researcher to establish relationships among variables. Use at different stages of a longitudinal study. Use of qualitative research is a quasi-experimental quantitative study. Employing both quantitative and qualitative research may provide a means of bridging the macro-micro gulf. Logic of triangulation. 2. Hybrids. The addition of some quantitative evidence may help generalizability. Quantitative and qualitative research are combined in order to provide a general picture . · The underlying philosophical positions are not necessarily so distinct as the stereotypes suggest. 11. Relationship between macro and micro levels . A qualitative study can be used to explain th efactors underlying the broad relationships. Or if not all issues are amenable solely to a quantitative or a qualitative investigation. 4. For example the results of a qualitative investigation might be checked against a quantitative study. but is often weak when it comes to exploring the reasons for those relationships. Problem of generality. 3. Qualitative research may: help to provide background information on context and subjects. QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES TO SOCIAL RESEARCH THE COMBINED APPROACH ELEVEN WAYS TO COMBINE QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH 1. Quantitative research facilitates qualitative research . Researchers' and subjects' perspectives . Qualitative research can tap large-scale structural features of social life while qualitative research tends to address small-scale behavioural aspects. Usually this means quantitative research helping with the choice of subjects for a qualitative investigation. (Adapted from Punch.· Qualitative data often includes quantification (eg statements such as more than. 10. Structure and process. 7. Qualitative research facilitates quantitative research . Quantitative research is especially efficient at getting at the structural features of social life while qualitative studies are usually stronger on process aspects. less than. 8. Stage in the research process. 6. Quantitative research is usually driven by the researcher's concerns. · Quantitative (ie questionnaire) approaches can collect qualitative data through open ended questions. most as well as specific numbers). Quantitative research may be employed to plug the gaps in a qualitative study which arise because. whereas qualitative research takes the subject's perspective. for example the researcher cannot be in more than one place at any one time. 9. 5. The findings from one type of study can be checked against the findings deriving from the other type.

J and Khan. This may involve paradigm and philosophical issues or different images about what a good piece of research looks like. 1998: 244-245) QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES Bibliography Bernard. gaining co-operation. Hughes. (Adapted from Punch. Sage Best. 5. (Calif). C and Symon. London. especially by beginning researchers. Are we interested in making standardized and systematic comparisons or do we really want to study this phenomenon or situation in detail? 3. R (2000) Introduction to Research Methods. H (1994) Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches . bearing in mind that the way questions are asked influences what needs to be done to answer them. Pitfalls and Perspectives. J (1994) Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches . access to situations. money. Falmer . Often. L. availability of samples and data. they are putting the `methods cart' before the `content horse'. London. The question `quantitative or qualitative?' is commonly asked. Style: Some people prefer one to the other. Sage Cassell. Sage Creswell. The Literature: How have other researchers dealt with this topic? To what extent do you wish to align your own research with standard approaches to the topic? 4. familiarity with the subject under study. Knowledge payoff: Will we learn more about this topic using quantitative or qualitative approaches? Which approach will produce more useful knowledge? Which will do more good? 6. Of course. J (1989) Research in Education. Sage Delamont. Routledge Burns. But when that has been done. London. London. Englewood Cliffs (NJ). M (1996) How to Research. 2. Research Questions: What exactly are you trying to find out? Focus on the `exactly' as this can lead you either into the quantitative or qualitative direction. a reasonable decision in any study might be to combine the two approaches. London. Open University Press Bryman. Prentice Hall Blaxter. and the question still remains.WHICH TO CHOOSE? SIX FACTORS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT 1. Buckingham. C and Tight. S (1992) Fieldwork in Educational Settings: Methods. The best advice in those cases is to step back from questions of method. and give further consideration to the purposes and research questions. Practical Considerations: Issues of time. A (1988) Quantity and Quality in Social Research . Thousand Oaks. G (Eds) (1994) Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research: A Practical Guide . the above factors help in making the decision.

K and Pidgeon. pp 89-110 Neuman. Falmer Graham. K (1998) Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches . Routledge and Kegan Paul. in K Watson. London. in M Hammersley (Ed) Social Research: Philosophy. London. Cassell. Edward Arnold Finch. pp 413-420 Mason. H (1984) Surveying through stories. London. in C Bell and H Rosen (Eds) Social Researching: Politics. Politics and Practice. in A Bryman and R Burgess (Eds) Analysing Qualitative Data. London. Routledge Punch.Ely. M et al (1991) Doing Qualitative Research: Circles within Circles. London. Sage Hughes. London. London. London. Routledge Henwood. N (1993) Qualitative research and psychology. Problems. London. 27. London. Quality in Education . Practice. B and Hay. J (1986) Research and Policy: The Uses of Qualitative Methods in Social and Educational Research . J (1994) Linking qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Boston. M (1989) The Dilemma of Qualitative Method. Sociological Review. W (1994) Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches . pp 799-825 Hammersley. D (1992) Talking about Statistics: A psychologist's Guide to Data Analysis . Falmer Everitt. Sage . P (1979) The analysis of qualitative data. C Modgil and S Modgil (Eds) Educational Dilemmas: Debate and Diversity. C (1997) Mystifying through coalescence: The underlying politics of methodological choices. Allyn and Bacon Stanley. Routledge. pp 104-124 Halfpenny. L (Ed) (1990) Feminist Praxis.

To achieve these aims the package will introduce students to a number of basic statistical techniques that are used in social research. and is often (problematically) presented or perceived as being about the gathering of `facts'.L.ac. Such an analysis will make wide use of proportions and percentages.uk These materials have two inter-related aims. quantitative research is concerned with the collection and analysis of data in numeric form. Many small-scale research studies that use questionnaires as a form of data collection will not need to go beyond the use of descriptive statistics and the exploration of the interrelationships between pairs of variables. The functions of these statistics vary but they are typically used to compare the measurements you have collected from your sample for a particular variable with another sample or a population in order that a judgement may be made on how similar or dissimilar they are. measures of dispersion.Hughes@warwick. It tends to emphasize relatively large-scale and representative sets of data. however. · To explore uses.http://www2. and that the answers given to particular questions appear to be related. It will be adequate to say that so many respondents (either the number or the proportion of the total) answered given questions in a certain way. Quantitative techniques are most commonly associated with survey and experimental research designs. Because of strong associations that are made between statistics as social facts and dominant ideas of science as objective and detached. The specific objectives are: · To develop understandings of the relationship between different types of quantitative data and their implications for descriptive and inferential statistical techniques. .warwick. and misuses. You may. The primary aim is to develop students' literacy in the use and reading of research that uses quantitative data. Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Student's t-test. of official statistics.ac. and of the various measures of central tendency (averages) and of dispersion (ranges). quantitative strategies are often viewed as more valid. wish or need to go beyond this level of analysis. · To explore the meanings of correlation and causality in relation to quantitative social research. In addition the materials will explore some common concepts that underpin quantitative social research. · To develop understandings of the statistical techniques of: measures of central tendency.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/academicstaff/chughes/hughesc_index/teachingre searchprocess/quantitativemethods Developing Literacy in Quantitative Methods DEVELOPING LITERACY IN QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS Dr Christina Hughes University of Warwick C. As the name suggests. The second is to enhance students' confidence in their understandings of such approaches. and make use of inferential statistics or multivariate methods of analysis. There are dozens of inferential statistics available: three commonly used examples are Chi-square.

Commonly used examples include multiple regression. These include: The International Journal of Social Research Methodology and Social Research Online ( http://www. Buckingham. this does not mean that they are. [Extracted from Blaxter. L. or due to the effect of some third variable. just because two variables of which you have measurements appear to be related. Routledge and Open University Press. London. D (1990) Quantitative Data Analysis for Social Scientists . Routledge Calder. you also have to find. In addition. interval or ratio. A (1997) Research Methods in Health: Investigating Health and Health Services . There are also a number of journals that are primarily concerned with developments in methodology. ordinal. If these assumptions do not hold these measures should not be used. or at least suggest. SW1V 2QQ or through the STATBASE on-line directory. Buckingham. Sage Blaxter. cluster analysis and factor analysis. We would like to be able to say that something is so because of something else. Buckingham. Routledge Denscombe. If you wish to extend your reading or keep up to date with developments you should put your name on these publishers' catalogue mailing lists. Statistical associations between two variables may be a matter of chance. One key point to be aware of when carrying out quantitative analysis is the question of causality. A and Cramer. This means that you have to be clear whether your data is. as they are all available as part of computer software packages. Hughes. C and Tight. secondary sources produced by the Office for National Statistics for the Government Statistical Service can be obtained from The Office for National Statistics. Measurement and Statistics. T (1999) Doing Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences: An Integrated Approach to Research Design. 1 Drummond Gate. 1996] Bibliography This bibliography includes texts that are useful for students new to quantitative techniques and those that are useful for the more advanced. The key publishers of methodology texts are Sage.socresonline. London. pp 225-261 Cramer. M (1996) How to Research. J (1996) Statistical Techniques. London. nominal. Hughes and Tight. Multivariate methods of analysis may be used to explore the interrelationships among three or more variables simultaneously. London. The asterisk (*) indicates those that are introductory. Open University Press* Bryman.org. in R Sapsford and V Jupp (Eds) Data Collection and Analysis.It is important to note that all of these inferential statistics make certain assumptions about both the nature of your data and how it was collected. London. for example. Open University Press* Bowling. Open University Press* . you should at least have an understanding of their principles and purposes.uk). In order to demonstrate causality. One of the purposes of analysis is to seek explanation and understanding. D (1994) Introducing Statistics for Social Research: Step-by-step calculations and computer techniques using SPSS. M (1998) The Good Research Guide: For small scale social research projects . While you do not need to have an extensive mathematical knowledge to apply these techniques. Sage. Black. a mechanism linking the variables together. However.

percentages. The categories are `in order'. D (1991) Surveys in Social Research. G. ranked relationship. M and Moule. R and Winch. Allen and Unwin Hek. P (1996) The Struggle for Independent Statistics on Poverty. London. P (1995) Statistics Explained: A guide for social science students . It is worth stressing that rank order is all that can be inferred . Belmont. London. P (1996) Making Sense of Research: An Introduction for Nurses . Pine Forge Pilcher. London. R (1996) Extracting and Presenting Statistics. . Routledge Townsend. NSW. Sage Wright. Cassell* Hinton. ordinal data are based on counts of things assigned to specific categories but in this case the categories stand in some clear. R (1995) How Sampling Works. Open University Press* Stanley. Used for the following descriptive statistics: proportions. D (1997) Understanding Statistics: An introduction for the social sciences. such as female/male or African Caribbean/South Asian. C (1994) Calculating and Computing for Social Science and Arts Students .De Vaus. Thousand Oaks. D (1990) Data Analysis for the Helping Professions: A Practical Guide. there is no underlying order to the names. Wadsworth Publishing Levitas. Calif. Newbury Park. Buckingham. Routledge. Calif. Routledge* Leary. These categories are based simply on names. percentages. Newbury Park. W (1996) Interpreting Official Statistics. Sage* TYPES OF QUANTITATIVE DATA Nominal data Nominal data come from counting things and placing them in a category. The most obvious examples of ordinal data come from the use of questionnaires in which respondents are asked to respond to a five-point Likert scale. Used for the following descriptive statistics: proportions. M (1991) Introduction to Behavioural Research Methods. more or less than. Judd. Sage. L (Ed) (1990) Feminist Praxis. C and Maisel. Routledge Persell. ordered. pp 26-44 Traub. Calif. ratios. those in other categories. Typically there is a head count of members of a particular category. They are the lowest level of quantitative data in the sense that they allow little by way of statistical manipulation compared with the other types. R and Guy. etc. With ordinal data we do not know the cause of the order or by how much they differ. R (1994) Reliability for the Social Sciences: Theory and Application . Sydney. This means that the data in each category can be compared with the data in the other categories as being higher or lower than. in R Levitas and W Guy (Eds) Interpreting Official Statistics. London. in R Sapsford and V Jupp (Eds) Data Collection and Analysis. London. London. Calif. pp 184-224 Solomon. London. Ordinal data Like nominal data. ratios. Sage Sapsford.

mean) Ratio data Ratio data are like interval data except that the categories exist on a scale which has a `true zero' or an absolute reference point. mean) [adapted from Blaxter. · Number of exam passes. Ratio data are the highest level of data in terms of how amenable they are to mathematical manipulation. · The temperatures of different geographical zones. · IQ scores. · The size of families in the UK. Illustrative Issue A Likert scale is written to convey equidistant points along an axis: . · The examination scores of members of this course. · The birth position of members of a family. using multiplication and division. This allows the researcher to use addition and subtraction (but not multiplication and division) to contrast the difference between various periods. · Exam grades received at school. ratio or interval data? · The income levels of social workers. rather than being restricted to the use of addition and subtraction as is the case with interval data. Used for the following descriptive statistics: measures of central tendency (mode. in the previous example.Interval data Interval data are like ordinal data but the categories are ranked on a scale. This means that the `distance' between the categories is a known factor and can be pulled into the analysis. The researcher can not only deal with the data in terms of `more than' or `less than' but also say how much more or how much less. do not exist on such a scale because the year 0 does not denote the beginning of all time and history. The important thing about the scale having a true zero is that the researcher can compare and contrast the data for each category in terms of ratios. 1998] TYPES OF QUANTITATIVE DATA EXAMPLES Are the following nominal. · The sex of your research participants. distances and weights they give rise to ratio data because the scales have a zero point. Calendar years. The ranking of the categories is proportionate and this allows for direct contrast and comparison. median. ordinal. When the categories concern things like incomes. Hughes and Tight. 1996 and Denscombe. median. Used for the following descriptive statistics: measures of central tendency (mode. Calendar years are one example.

It includes the total spread and finds the mid-point. The mean (or arithmetic average) This is the most common meaning of `average'. then further analyses can be carried out on the assumption of an ordinal scale. In the same way. But where such assumptions are made.*---------------. there is always the possibility of misinterpretation of the data. therefore. Most researchers take a pragmatic approach. reviews of the statistical evidence suggested that the assumption of equality of equal intervals within rating scales is justified. The `real' distances between each of the ratings may also vary from person to person. however. To calculate the mean: 1. In theory. Over the years. These are the mean. If the assumption of an interval scale does not work. and that this will affect the type of analyses that can be used on them. (Calder. When they do not quite work as expected. The important point is to be clear always that there are different types of data. Add together the total of all the values for the category 2. Scientists use models of weather systems to study the relationships between different factors in order to understand better what the contributory factors are.*---------------. they modify some of their assumptions. One way of dealing with data that are difficult to `type' correctly is through the use of models. such data should be treated as ordinal data. 1996: 229) MEASURES OF CENTRAL TENDENCY OR MID-POINTS AND AVERAGES There are three types of average and these are collectively called `measures of central tendency'.*-----------------*---------------. the median and the mode.* Very Fairly Important Not very Not at all Important Important Important Important Are the meanings ascribed by research respondents similarly equidistant? Is such data interval or nominal? TYPES OF QUANTITATIVE DATA A CAUTIONARY COMMENT Very important 1 Fairly important 2 Not very important 3 Not at all important 4 The problem is that the `real' distance between the ratings numbered 3 and 4 for a respondent may be much greater than the distance they perceive between the items numbered 1 and 2. and continue with the practice of treating ratings and psychological tests as interval data. statisticians produce statistical models based on their current understanding of the problem. Divide this total by the number of cases .

For example. Identify the value that occurs more frequently than any other. or outliers. Example: Calculate the mode of the following: 1 1 4 4 7 11 12 17 17 17 47 . · It does not allow any further mathematical calculations. Example: Calculate the median from the following: 1 4 7 11 12 17 17 47 The Mode The mode is the value that is most common. Example: Calculate the mean from the following: 1 4 7 11 12 17 17 47 The median or mid-point The median is the mid-point of the range. Place the values in ascending/descending rank order 2. · The mean can lead to strange descriptions. 2. nationalities and occupations. · The mode can be used with nominal.4 person households. interval and ratio data. · The median works well with a low number of values. · It is unaffected by outliers or extreme values. Find the mid-point number 3. ordinal. such as 2.· The mean cannot be used with nominal data. sexes. Because the mean includes all values the average can be pulled toward the value of the outlier or toward the more extreme values. you cannot `average' names. · The main disadvantage is that you can do no further calculations with the median. · There may not be any `most common' values or there may be more than one. To calculate: 1. · The mean is affected by extreme values. Arrange the data in ascending/descending order. To calculate: 1. · The median is not affected by extreme values or outliers. It has the widest possible scope therefore. With even numbers of values the mid-point is half-way between the two middle values · The median can be used with ordinal data as well as interval and ratio data.

deciles. Example: Calculate the range from the following: 3 4 7 11 12 17 17 47 Fractiles To take account of the spread of values across the whole range. To calculate: 1. the range can still be affected by the value of any outliers. Working from the median point divide your data into the relevant fractiles. fractiles (eg quartiles/quarters. The range This is the simplest. Find the median that occurs between the second and third quartile. How would you present this data? What would you say about the validity of these data? Income per annum (thousands): 15 16 17 21 22 27 27 47 Standard Deviation (SD) The standard deviation is used with the arithmetic mean. In addition it allows the comparison of values between fractiles. and a very effective. percentiles) 2. how far from the central point is the data dispersed? There are three main measures of dispersion: the range. by focusing on the cases that fall between the second and third quartile reasearchers know that they are dealing with the half of the values that fall in the middle. Subdivide the range into equal parts (eg quartiles. For example. Example: The following is income data of social workers. The larger the standard deviation the more spread out the range is. percentiles/hundredths) are used. Find the median (mid point) value. It is a measure of the distance of the scores from your mean. In other words. This is why is it important to include a note of the highest and lowest score in your written presentation of data. way of describing the spread of the data. To calculate the range: · Substract the minimum value in the distribution from the maximum value. equidistant ranges. measures of dispersion are an important adjunct in any description of the data. the top ten percent of earners can be compared with the bottom. deciles/tenths. Divide the data into quartiles. Fractiles can eliminate the high and low values that affect measures of central tendency. For example. Although effective. These divide the range into smaller. The standard deviation uses all the values in the range to calculate the spread of the data. 3. To calculate: . Measures of dispersion are used to indicate how widely the data is spread and how evenly the data is spread. fractiles and standard deviation.MEASURES OF DISPERSION Given some of the problems in the accuracy of conveying meaning with measures of central tendency. In consequence it can give a misleading impression of the spread of the data. Fractiles are used with median values. Find the median that occurs in each quartile.

Exercise: Find the standard deviation of the following: 1 4 7 11 12 17 17 47 CORRELATION Correlation How closely are two variables connected? This question is answered in statistical terms with correlation. Subtract the mean from all your values 3. Divide this by the number of your values minus one 6. we would also say that there is a positive correlation between the two variables. The two most commonly used correlation statistics are Spearman's rank correlation coefficient that works for ordinal data and Pearsons's product moment correlation coefficient that works for interval and ratio data. However. For example. In addition. Find the mean 2. do the students who spend the most time studying achieve the highest marks? Do those who spend least time studying get the lowest marks? These question are asking us to compare two variables: study time and examination performance. Find the square root of this · The standard deviation can be used for further statistical analysis · Because of this standard deviation is an immensely important aspect of social research · The standard deviation can only be used with interval and ratio data. a negative correlation between the variables of smoking and health. If there is no relation between two variables then we would say that the variables are uncorrelated. In other words we would be saying that as the score increases on one variable it also increases on the other variable. Add all these `squared numbers' together 5. this would be described as a negative correlation. some students who did not wear jeans had high scores and some who did not wear jeans had low scores the results are likely to show no correlation. It is meaningless when used with nominal and even ordinal data. For example. This requires you to plot the scores of the two variables along the axes of a graph and mark the results. . if we found that the more students spent studying the lower their marks. if those who study least achieve the lowest marks. There is. if the hypothesis was that wearing jeans improved exam scores and the results suggested that some students who wore jeans had high scores and some who wore jeans had low scores. If a straight line can be drawn there is a correlation. To calculate correlation one plots the scores on a scatter diagram. The direction of the lines indicates whether this is a positive (up) correlation or a negative (down) correlation. If the answer was that that those who spend most time studying do achieve the highest marks we would say that there is a positive correlation between the two variables. The more a person smokes the less healthy that person is likely to be. Square all the results (to turn your minuses into pluses) 4. We are asking to what extent is there a relationship between these two variables. for example.1.

7 (strong) suggests a reasonable correlation. 1995) CORRELATION AND CAUSATION CORRELATION DOES NOT MEAN CAUSATION If two things go together it is easy to assume that they are causally related in some way. Is this the case? Even if the thickness of a caterpillar's coat correlates closely with the severity of the winter weather.3 (weak) and 0.When reading statistical research you are likely to find the following signs: · +1 this equals a perfect positive correlation (as one variable goes up so does the other) · 0 this means there is no relationship between the variables · -1 this equals a perfect negative correlation (as one variable goes up the other goes down) · In practice any correlation coefficient between 0. can we conclude that caterpillars cause bad weather? Three criteria are required to achieve causality in statistical research: · Covariation · Directionality · Elimination of extraneous variables Covariation . Example: Do the following data indicate a correlation? Student Study Time Examination Mark 1 40 58 2 43 73 3 18 56 4 10 47 5 25 58 6 33 54 7 27 45 8 17 32 9 30 68 10 47 69 (from Hinton.

Two variables may be correlated not because they are causally related to one another but because they are both related to a third variables. Does smoking cause cancer? [adapted from Leary. Correlational research never satisfies this requirement completed. These include: · Census of Employment · Census of Population · Labour Force Survey · General Household Survey · Family Expenditure Survey The annual publication Social Trends is a useful source for those who are seeking some simple statistics. represent and analyse information about economic and social (and other) .To conclude that two variables are causally related they need to covary or correlate. 1991] USING OFFICIAL DATA SETS There are a number of important. Directionality To infer that two variables are causally related we much show that the presumed cause precedes the presumed effect in time. Care should be taken in the use of statistics however.they are constructed by human beings influenced by culture and the predispositions and governing ideas of the organisations and groups within which people work. Social Trends compiles its analyses from these data sets. Example: Does smoking cause cancer? There is a wealth of research that suggests a strong correlation between smoking and cancer. For example.may reduce both loneliness and depression. For example. and useful. They are the current expression of society's attempts to interpret. Like words . As he further notes (1996: 26): Statistics don't fall out of the skies. the definition of correlation. If one variable causes the other then changes in the values of one variable should be associated with changes in the values of the other.the quality of a person's social network . There is therefore no way to determine the direction of causality. Statistical methodologies are not timeless creations. in a discussion of poverty statistics. This is. Townsend notes how successive governments in the UK have chosen to avoid using the term `poverty'. data sets collected by government and which can be used for secondary analyses. In addition. Has X causes Y or Y caused X? Elimination of Extraneous variables The third criterion for inferring causality is that all extraneous factors that might influence the relationship between the two variables are eliminated. However in most correlational research both variables are measured at the same time. the ESRC keeps data archives of both quantitative and qualitative research that can be consulted. of course.of which they are of course an extension . does loneliness cause depression? Maybe but a third variable .

It is understandable that professional statisticians should try to counter this by appeals to objectivity. Acquiring information is much more than looking up handbooks of statistics. and misuse.000 a year? Does that reveal the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister's professed commitment to creating a nation at ease with itself? The Prime Minister: The hon... this contains discussions on the ways in which statistics collected on the homeless are `compromised' by the processes of turning raw data into statistical information. cultural. The net disposable income of people at all ranges of income has increased and the . She was selective from the report. social class. political and technical conventions change in terms of retreat as well as advance . They do not make data more easily available to the public in the interests of informed political debate. (p 6) The edited text by Levitas and Guy (1996) outlines the kinds of data sets that are available..000 a year while the 20 per cent of households at the bottom of the income scale have had their average disposable income cut by £3. But it is also abundantly clear that the definitions used in official statistics still produce measures which embody the interests of the state rather than of citizens. needs to be grounded in how information about social conditions is acquired.. USING OFFICIAL DATA SETS EXERCISE 1. A chapter by Liz Stanley (A Referral Was Made) discusses the politics of objectivity influences the presentation of a social service's case. Lady [Ms Corston] was being selective in what she said . the (relative) ease of conducting secondary analysis carries the danger of forgetting that the concepts used in any research derive from the questions and interests of its original intentions. The presentation of statistics in particular ways for political ends. unemployment. show that the insistence on the neutrality and objectivity of facts still dominates discussion of official statistics and their production. health. Another useful text is that of Stanley L (Ed) (1990) Feminist Praxis.. The extent to which secondary analysis can bend data sets to the service of sometimes quite different agendas is necessarily limited. safety at work. Amongst the range of issues discussed. reveals that as a direct consequence of Tory Government policy since 1979 the average disposable income of the richest 20 per cent of households has increased by £6.. continue. Statistics form a substantial part of such information..[Interruption]. Levitas and Guy (1996) contextualise these concerns in terms of the following: There are developments which may make official data more easily accessible to academic experts [on-line access]. London.. Moreover. ethnicity. It is therefore only with the utmost care that such data can be interpreted for democratic purposes. How would you interpret the following statement? "Statistics on patterns of household disposable income are provided in Households below Average Income reports . 1996: 27-28) 2. Routledge.. It also contains discussions of the use. As the years pass they change . of government statistics in the following areas: poverty.not just because there may be technical advances but because professional. The best response to low household income is to sustain economic recovery and to assist those in greatest need" (Reported in Townsend. (p 3) .conditions. disability and crime.The debates . How would you interpret the following conversation? Ms Corston: Is the Prime Minister aware that Social Trends 1994.. a Government publication. and the abolition of inconvenient measures. [Thus] Every student of social science . We have to become self-conscious about the process of selection. working women.

1996: 40) . (Reported in Townsend. not been reduced.proportion of total tax paid by those on top incomes has increased.

Similarly. 1998: 4) Qualitative research is multimethod in focus. trends and correlations. grounded in a philosophical position which is broadly `interpretivist' in the sense that it is concerned with how the social world is interpreted.that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals' lives. phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. contextual and detailed data. life story.. Denzin and Lincoln (1994) highlight the multiple nature of qualitative approaches.http://www2.. Accordingly. experienced or produced . (Denzin and Lincoln.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/academicstaff/chughes/hughesc_index/teachingre searchprocess/qualitativemethods An Introduction to Qualitative Methods DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY AN INTRODUCTION TO QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PREPARED BY CHRISTINA HUGHES UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK WHAT IS QUALITATIVE RESEARCH? AN INTRODUCTION Qualitative research is empirical research where the data are not in the form of numbers. perceptions and actions so that their analyses are holistic and contextual. involving an interpretive. understood.. Qualitative researchers use a variety of tools and techniques in order to develop deep understandings of how people perceive their social realities and in consequence. or removed from `real life' or `natural' social context. qualitative researchers are very careful to stress the multiplicity and variety of qualitative approaches. introspective. They indicate that qualitative research is concerned with the study of people in their natural settings. There is more emphasis on `holistic' forms of analysis and explanation in this sense. Mason (1996) comments that she does not feel comfortable with going beyond the above general features.case study. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials . but statistical forms of analysis are not seen as central. naturalistic approach to its subject matter. 1994: 2) Qualitative research is . hoping always to get a better fix on the subject matter at hand. (Punch. detail and context. interactional.warwick.. based on methods of analysis and explanation building which involve understandings of complexity. based on methods of data generation which are flexible and sensitive to the social context in which data are produced (rather than rigidly standardized or structured. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings.. qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected methods. historical. than on charting surface patterns. personal experience. and visual texts . For example. Qualitative research aims to produce rounded understandings on the basis of rich. They also illustrate how these have changed over time. They seek to make connections between events. Beyond these broad assumptions. Denzin and Lincoln (1994: 1) indicate that `qualitative research operates in a complex historical field . or interpret. as in some forms of experimental method) . attempting to make sense of.. This is because there are many different answers to key questions of qualitative methodology. interview. observational. (Mason.ac. 1996: 4) These quotations convey something of the nature of qualitative research. Qualitative research usually does use some form of quantification. how they act within the social world.

cultural studies and feminism. One of the strengths of qualitative approaches is that this flexibility can enhance the research leaded to unanticipated. structuralism. This means that qualitative researchers make decisions on the basis of their research design and in terms of the changing contexts and situations in which the research takes place. The `five moments' are consecutive but also simultaneous. The key points I would make in respect of this are: · As Ely et al (1991) point out the field of qualitative research is shot through with a host of labels and a host of proponents of those labels. phenomenology. The humanities also became a central resource for critical and interpretive theory. considering issues of analysis and data collection as integrated and being clear about the purposes of the research.that crosscuts five historical moments . qualitative researchers have to use key principles of research design such as linking the research questions to the methodological approaches. qualitative research. Denzin and Lincoln describe these five moments as: · The traditional (1900-195): associated with the positivist paradigm where qualitative research aims to reflect the principles of (natural) scientific enquiry. These five moments simultaneously operate in the present'. but significant. . Take heart: Ely et al note that Tesch (1990) compiled a list of 46 terms that social scientists have used to name their versions of qualitative research. ethnographic methodologies. · As Denzin and Lincoln (1994) also point out old concerns do not go away. Different terms are used in roughly synonymous ways (naturalistic inquiry. No wonder we are all confused! · As Denzin and Lincoln (1994) point out the nature of the field of qualitative research changes over time. · Theories of ontology (what is the form and nature of social reality and. This is also part of: · The blurred genres (1970-1986) : where a variety of new interpretive. issues... · The modernist or golden age (1950-1970) : where we see the appearance of post-positivist arguments. · The postmodern or present (1990-): a new sensibility that doubts all previous paradigms. semiotics. · Qualitative research should be conducted in a flexible and contextual way. drawn from Mason (1996) · Qualitative research should be conducted systematically and rigorously. I would add the following imperatives. The blurred genres phase gave rise to: · The crisis of representation (1986-1990) : where researchers struggled with how to locate themselves and their subjects in reflexive texts. interpretive research). Different perspectives and concerns arise at different points. thus. This causes confusion and for the new (and also not so new!) student it reinforces a sense that it is they who is at fault as they have failed to get to grips with what exactly qualitative research is. qualitative perspectives come into the foreground: hermeneutics. what can be known) and epistemology (what is the nature of the relationship between the knower and would-be knower and what can be known) are central to understanding the forms of knowledge that are produced through qualitative approaches. like all social researchers. This means that.

· Qualitative research should be conducted through critical. The `divide' between quantitative and qualitative research is to some extent false. All researchers should think carefully about how the choices of method and the potential combinations of approach that are appropriate and possible.. · Qualitative research should produce social explanations to intellectual puzzles.. Qualitative research does quantify (look for phrases such as more than. a qualitative researcher immerses her/himself in the setting. This means being explicit about the logics that have produced these explanations (eg. · Qualitative research should be conducted as ethical practice. or uncomplementary to. nonetheless it is important to have a general sense of the key features of qualitative research. qualitative research should not be viewed as completely distinctive from. Therefore. Nothing is predefined or taken for granted. researcher's role and so on). Ely et al add the following from Sherman and Webb (1988) to their definition: Qualitative implies a direct concern with experience as it is `lived' or `felt' or `undergone' . 1994 and Denzin and Lincoln. Therefore. then. . to provide their perspectives in words and other actions. · Qualitative research is not a unified body of philosophy and practice. · For many qualitative researchers. quantitative approaches. You might also consult the International Journal of Qualitative Research in Education both for examples of this form of research and for methodological discussions. qualitative research is an interactive process in which the persons studied teach the researcher about their lives. 1998 (a shorter paperback version of the 1994 edition). not as separate variables. To this end I conclude with the following produced by Ely et al (1991: 4): QUALITATIVE RESEARCH KEY CHARACTERISTICS · Events can be understood adequately only if they are seen in context. Quantitative research can collect more qualitative data through open ended questions. Further Work For those of you interested in following up debates and issues within qualitative research in more detail the classic texts are Denzin and Lincoln. Qualitative research. · Qualitative researchers want those who are studied to speak for themselves. · Qualitative methods are appropriate to the above statements. This means that the researcher should be constantly asking questions about her or his role in the research process. For example. selection of events for analysis. The aim of qualitative research is to understand experience as unified. · Qualitative researchers attend to the experience as a whole. self-reflexive enquiry. the process entails appraisal about what was studied. less than). Whilst the field of qualitative research is complex and riven with internal debates. they are natural. has the aim of understanding experience as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it. · The contexts of inquiry are not contrived. sampling. There is no one general method.

researchers use a variety of methods or techniques of data collection under the umbrella terms of `qualitative' and `quantitative' to enhance the generalizability of the account (Bryman. Thus. For Bryman (1998: 126) this would produce `more complete accounts of social reality'.IS QUALITATIVE RESEARCH A CREDIBLE METHODOLOGY? WHICH BEST DESCRIBES QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH? SOFT HARD SUBJECTIVE OBJECTIVE SMALL SCALE LARGE SCALE IDIOGRAPHIC GENERALIZABLE JOURNALISM SCIENCE OPINION TRUTH Ideas that qualitative research is a `second' best approach rest in large part because of the predominance of the `science' model of social research. as Hammersley (1989) indicates there is much greater variety of theories of social reality within and between the labels `quantitative' and `qualitative' than we might at first imagine. Stanley delivered a paper that gave an account of an elderly couple's experiences of Social Services' intervention. Within quantitative approaches. The generalizability of quantitative research is again seen to be possible through technical solutions. art/science. particularly if you hope that your research will impact on policy or create change in some way. I believe the appropriate use of both quantitative and qualitative methods in the social sciences can help the feminist community in achieving its goals more effectively than the use of either qualitative or quantitative methods alone' (p 109. and through the use of external checks on the methods used. The central values of such an approach are objectivity and generalizability. Stanley's (1990) account of a Social Services' referral indicates the politics embedded in the power of `objectivity' in the production of social research knowledge. There is a politics in the choice and use of methods. In contrast. In addition. it is perhaps important to remember that the values conveyed by descriptions such as soft/hard. However. For example. In a similar vein. Thus: `My approach to this issue [of choice of method] is political: that is. In addition. small scale/large scale have political import. Because of the time and costs involved in such work. Ideas of `second' best also rest on the stereotypes that arise when quantitative and qualitative approaches are compared in this way. objectivity is maintained in various technical ways. through the possibilities of replication of the research. In practice. emphasis in original). idiosyncratic/generalizable. In some ways the concerns that arise about a qualitative/quantitative divide can be resolved by giving greater attention to how these approaches can be combined. techniques such as participant observation and unstructured or informal interviews are commonly used. Jayaratne (1993) encourages feminists to use both methods because she believes this is more likely to achieve feminist goals. it is not possible to replicate qualitative studies. qualitative approaches emphasise the importance of getting close to the researched. through the distance between the researcher and the researched that is created through the administration of a formal questionnaire. 1988). because of the central role played by the researcher in the generation of data. qualitative designs do not generally draw samples from large-scale data sets. This account deliberately omitted the . The development of sophisticated statistical and sampling techniques are key to this. This is because one of the purposes of qualitative approaches is to try to depict the participant's view of social reality.

situations.fact that the couple were her parents. · The researcher's presence has a profound effect on the subjects of study. effects and dynamic processes. · The viewpoints of both researcher and participants have to be identified and elucidated because of issues of bias. thereby gaining new insight. · These stereotypes lead to comparisons that are political in import. conditions and interactions cannot be replicated to any extent nor can generalisations be made to a wider context than the one studied with any confidence. · Contexts. In addition. · Qualitative descriptions can play the important role of suggesting possible relationships. but rather qualitative research uses a more descriptive. and added to. Strengths · Because of close researcher involvement. · Issues of anonymity and confidentiality present problems when selecting findings. · The time required for data collection. As she states `I felt that presenting `the case study' as my own still recent experience of caring would disqualify both me and it from `research' and `papers' in the eyes of those present' (p 121). The key points I would wish to emphasise are: · There are many stereotypes about qualitative and quantitative approaches. Because of the subjective nature of qualitative data and its origin in single contexts. from Burns (2000-13-14) in respect of qualitative research: Limitations of Qualitative Approaches · The problem of adequate validity or reliability is a major criticism. it is difficult to apply conventional standards of reliability and validity. events. this research might be of particular benefit to the practitioner as she or he could turn to qualitative reports in order to examine forms of knowledge that might otherwise be unavailable. causes. I set out below a summary that I have adapted. · Qualitative research adds flesh and blood to social analysis. narrative style. the researcher gains an insider's view of the field. it is important to be aware of the various strengths and limitations of any methodological approach. · Because statistics are not used. more positivistic enquiries. analysis and interpretation is lengthy. HOW DO YOU DO QUALITATIVE RESEARCH? THREE POINTS TO NOTE . · Qualitative and quantitative approaches are not as distinctive as the idea of a `divide' suggests. This allows the researcher to find issues that are often missed (such as subtleties and complexities) by the scientific.

Alvesson and Skoldberg (2000:5) describe this in terms of drawing: . (Flick. Punch (1998) suggests that method includes research design.. He states that `Technically. I would like to emphasise that the `doing' of qualitative research comprises of three key aspects.. that are used to make sense of this data. (Denzin and Lincoln.. You might combine methods.. the overall analysis of how research proceeds . The term methodology has a more philosophical meaning and usually refers to the approach or paradigm that underpins the research. You might undertake a series of unstructured. You might use a computer for analysis or you might use your living room floor to spread the transcripts out ready for cut and pasting. an observation or collect and analyse documents. The term method is used when we are referring to the tools or techniques of data collection such as questionnaires. using multiple methods and multiple sources of data.. observation.. unstructured interviewing and focus group techniques are qualitative methods of data collection (Bowling. an interpretive (the most common). to the use of visual materials or personal experience. there are many ways to `do' qualitative research. data collection and data analysis. Given that how we interpret the data cannot be separated from how it is collected. The researcher may also use a variety of different methods of reading and analyzing interviews or cultural texts. . verbal and visual data are transformed into texts by documenting them and by transcription. interviews and observations. the main ways of collecting qualitative data [are] the interview. qualitative researchers also stress a third features of this approach. and here data management methods and computer-assisted models of analysis may be of use. Whatever the design and whatever the perspective. Verbal data are collected in semi-structured interviews or as narratives. 1998: 11-12) As these quotations illustrate.. You might focus on a single person. You might work alone or in a team. The first two relate to the distinctions that are made between the terms method and methodology.. and their underpinning theories. In such a case. . ranging from the interview to direct observation. . Qualitative research mainly works with two sorts of data. He notes that the noun methodology is more problematic. Several types of data collection might well be used in the one qualitative project. to the analysis of artifacts. a postmodern and a critical way (also very common). as in the phrase ` the research methodology of this study'. We can 'do' qualitative research in a positivistic. Visual data result from applying the various observational methods. You might undertake an interview study. using statistics to convey generalizability about the case you have selected.. including content. and cultural records. This is that to be a qualitative researcher requires one to be highly reflexive.The researcher has several methods for collecting empirical materials.. 1988: 174) come down to these main types. participant observation and documents. it [methodology] refers to the study of method(s). and semiotic strategies. ranging from participant and non-participant observation to ethnography and analysing photos and films . Faced with large amounts of qualitative materials. The key point about making a distinction between method and methodology is to emphasise that the tools that are used to collect data cannot be separated from the frameworks of analysis. documents. The research may be spread over many years or it may be episodic. the data in most qualitative research (Punch. It is often used more loosely. narrative. the investigator seeks ways of managing and interpreting these documents. `research method(s) would be a more accurate term' (p29). 1994: 14). You might spend months in the field living with those whom you research. interviews with a large group of people. 1997: 311) Qualitative researchers study spoken and written representations and records of human experience. You might be researching an unfamiliar culture or you might be researching your own organisation.

perhaps by limiting it to works published after a certain date. See if you can find further parallels as you cook your data! (p 174) Hint: Some of the tasks involved in analysing data are very basic and repetitive. (p 105) Hint: If you carry out a search of the literature using a computer database. You may use a range of tools in your cooking. then. or do not feel like doing. or fast and processed. and furnishes opportunities for understanding rather than establishes `truths'. Hughes and Tight. or by adding to or changing your key words. Empirical research in a reflective mode starts from a sceptical approach to what appear at a superficial glance as unproblematic replicas of the way reality functions. and this results in hundreds of references. You may be preparing food just for yourself or for a banquet. Scheurich (1997) suggests that the researcher is an imperialist who can marshall the data according to her will. because this was a common problem. you might like to think of it as analogous to cooking. do not download them all. you may well have identified an issue or debate which would be worth exploring in your research project (p 95) Hint: Being critical does not mean rubbishing or rejecting someone else's work. You may mix the ingredients together using a recipe. anything more demanding. (p 183) Hint: Try explaining it to a non-specialist again. political and theoretical elements are woven together in the process of knowledge development.. As a researcher and thinker you should be able simultaneously to entertain two or more contradictory ideas at one time. This involves operating on at least two levels in research work and paying much attention to how one thinks about thinking .. social.. What and how you cook depends on your taste. For example. it was normal practice in focus group research to ensure that the . interpreted and written. one student admitted that her focus group interview went badly wrong. during which empirical material is constructed. She had been researching `Girls' Nights Out' and had invited two groups of friends to her house. or based on previous experience. (p 198) (All from: Blaxter. but just right (and one which will not break). while at the same time maintaining the belief that the study of suitable (well thought-out) excerpts from this reality can provide an important basis for a generation of knowledge that opens up rather than closes.attention to the complex relationship between processes of knowledge production and the various contexts of such processes as well as the involvement of the knowledge producer. or carefully blended over a long period. for the validity of the research? WHICH HINTS AND TIPS WORK? Hint: Think of choosing your research topic in terms of the Goldilocks strategy. You may like your food simple and freshly prepared. 1996) When teaching a class recently. [this means] that serious attention is paid to the way different kinds of linquistic. or you may buy a packet already prepared. from a simple knife or spoon to an expensive foodprocessor. One of the members of the class (very gently) told her that.. You want to select a topic which is not too big. What does this mean.. They did not get on and sat either end of the room throughout the entire evening. The key point here is that the reflexive social researcher has to recognise their own place and role in generating the knowledge that is in the research report. skills and the resources you have available. and not too small. Save these for when you are unable to do. (p 25) Hint: If you find very conflicting arguments in your reading around. (p 113) Hint: If you feel traumatized or terrorized by the process of analysing the data you have collected. Narrow your search further.

You have become very passionate about the issues that they are facing. Theoretical Notes . What tools or techniques would you use to facilitate the interview? · You want to undertake a participant observation study in a local community. They will note the time. we acquire such advice. It is more concerned to emphasise that it is too easy to dismiss the usefulness of such knowledge! The hints set out above have arisen from my own research and teaching experiences. (e) one member of the group never speaks. They are aimed at students who are undertaking research for the first time. How do you deal with the following: · (a) two members of the group begin an argument. What do you say in response? · You are facilitating a focus group discussion. 1. place and technique used. What will help? · You have been undertaking some long term participant observation in a local community centre. They contain as little interpretation as possible and are as reliable as the observer can construct them. This `tip'. · How do I manage all this data? · This is the first time you have undertaken field research and you are very nervous and anxious. Does this matter? 2. (d) the group runs out of steam after fifteen minutes and seems to have exhausted their thoughts on the topic. (b) one member of the group dominates the conversation. What problems have you encountered in your research that you would welcome some advice about? 3. What would you advise? · You are researching reasons for non-participation in adult learning classes. of course. I hope that the following exercise will generate some more hints and tips that are useful in your research. would have been much more useful beforehand but this story is not so much concerned about when. How/where do you begin? · The person you are interviewing expresses some extreme racist views. What is your worst experience of research going wrong? THE RESEARCH DIARY Observational Notes These record events experienced principally through watching and listening. Methodological Notes These record aspects of reflection on the methodology. Some of people you are interviewing are very uncomfortable about talking to a researcher.people invited did not know each other beforehand. (c) several members of the group get up to help themselves to refreshments and begin a conversation in the corner of the room. and how. If it was thought desirable to bring people together who did know each other then it was important to ensure that they were one rather than two or more groups. For example they might include a critique of one's own tactics.

. We find the idea of empowerment in literatures as far apart as those concerned with organisational competitiveness and those concerned with the eradication of poverty. 1995: 69) We re-present stories told by subjugated Others. can help mobilize social action or evoke participatory experiences through imagination. the very differences invite greater reflexivity and clarity about what researchers think they are doing. (Ellis and Bochner. Analytical Notes These are where you attempt to bring together several aspects of your analysis within a broader. and the impact of what some call the postmodern `malaise'. (Fine. how it is exercised and where it manifests itself.. Self-re-cognition may result in an imaginative naming of one's conditions. giving voice and dialogue are fairly commonplace these days. more abstract statement. how are you going to balance the demands of participation and observation? CAN RESEARCH BE EMPOWERING? The terms `power' and `empowerment' crop up a great deal in research related to social justice. This is not surprising. And we get a hearing. (Barone.These are your attempts to derive meaning from your data. It sounds as if researchers for social justice would find a lot to agree about here. and whether it is worthwhile. stories that would otherwise be discarded. But this is not the case. . (Griffiths. The extent of usage of such terms. sex. has meant that we are more likely today to find that there are 'calls for serious .. 1998: 150). 1998: 117) Using creative genres of writing . and storytelling. UNDERTAKING AN OBSERVATION · Are the times at which you carry out your observations relevant? · Do you need to devise an observational schedule or determine pre-coded categories? · How are you going to organize your data recording? · Is it important to you to try and record `everything' or will you be much more selective? · Are your age. ethnicity.. We might suggest that calls for empowerment. Improvements in justice are related to power: who has it. dress or other characteristics likely to affect your observations? · How artificial is the setting? How visible are you as the observer? Does this matter? · Is observation enough or will you need to participate. performance art. 1996: 30) Readers who identify with an oppressed group may achieve a unique outcome through reading about rhetorical figures who are metaphors for themselves. and/or use other means of data collection? · Are there any situations to which you cannot get access but where observation may be important? How can you get `backstage'? · If you are going to participate more directly in the events you will be observing.

(2) a notion of power as property. This Foucauldian approach suggests that to empower someone. 4. Results of research include knowledge (but not only propositional knowledge or information) and improvements) 2. Improvement: A main reason for doing the research is to get improvement in social justice in and from education. in the interests of improving education. Research results and processes may surprise and discomfort any or all of the members of the researcher community. means that you are authorized by yourself or others to give something. It is acknowledged that the processes of consultation and change are going to result in conflict and people feeling exposed when putting their views on the line. and also other educational researchers.skepticism of and critical attention to those contemporary education narratives that claim to be emancipatory' (Lather. Finally. It is difficult to establish hard and fast boundaries to this research community.. These are: 1. but also users of the research and anyone else to whom it is . Simplified discussions of empowerment encourage perceptions of uni-directional models that do not credit others with power nor allow for the contradictory messiness through which the everyday enactments of power emerge.. and to challenge others during and after doing the research. empowerment suggests (1) an agent of empowerment. It implies the best possible of whatever kind is aimed at. homophobic. and so on) society. the issue of institutional authority raises the contradictions of trying to achieve a democratic and collective ideal in a hierarchical institution. and (3) some kind of vision or desirable end sate). As Griffiths (op cit) notes there is no single response to these issues. Empowerment also suggests that power is some kind of property that can be given away. what are people being `empowered' for? Empowerment suggests a desirable end state but what might that be? And do we all agree with whatever that is? These issues are central for those working to `empower' and to work for social justice. borrowed or shared. (and racist. then. establishing and working with such a diverse research community requires that all sectors respect and work with each other in conditions of trust and safety. Gore (1992: 56) usefully delineates the concept of empowerment into three components. 5. Yet what does authority mean. Researchers need to work collaboratively with people as part of the community carrying out the research. but it also raises the question of the meaning of authority for feminist teachers. whose right to speak or to hold power is itself under attack in a patriarchal. Thus. All liberatory talk has oppressive potentials. This is inclusive of various kinds of knowledge. This means not only those in (4) above. At times. Yet Griffiths (1998: 95-96 and 102) offers the following ten principles that underpin working for social justice in qualitative educational research. Creating. Knowledge and learning: A main reason for doing the research is to get knowledge and to learn from it. As Weiler (1995: 33) points out for many feminists the practices of authority can be paradoxical: . Radical change of any of the beliefs and values is possible: Improvements in knowledge are always uncertain. Openness to a wider community : Researchers need to be open to the viewpoints of all concerned with the research. Waiving trust and safety can be morally justified. 3. so researchers must be prepared to change their minds radically. 1992: 129). Collaboration and consultation with the immediate research community. handed over. feminist women may indeed seek to claim their authority `over' precisely because it is already questioned through gendered organizational and social practices. but only in extreme conditions. classist.

Openness to political groupings and perspectives: Researchers need to seek out and be open to the viewpoints of socio-political groups. Taking responsibility as part of the wider educational research community. 10. All research programmes have to be constructed on the run. Reflexivity about own understanding and values . sexuality. Some of the feelings of risk come about because such consultation requires researcher(s) to be open to reflexivity about their own position and interests. the neighbourhood. Advances always come as a patchwork or ragbag. that power is everywhere and that alongside power we will find resistance. Good research still needs to improve. but these too are revisable. teachers. The Griffiths (op cit) text gives a fuller exploration of this and provides associated examples from research in education. and against a background of social and educational change. They cross-cut alliances between. Reflexivity is needed about the researchers' own understanding and values. Foucauldian analyses of power highlight how power is not simply repressive but productive. On the other hand. gender. By the time the best possible design. Griffiths warns that it is important to note that this is not a `pick-and-mix' list. There are alliances to be made between groups of people on the basis of. but some other things may be out of its control altogether. 7. Vigilance is needed. All principles are interlocking. methods and forms of dissemination are found. models where power is something that an elite or a boss has. Us and Them. in a process of reflexivity related to dangerous knowledge and power. Researchers must recognize their responsibilities related to being part of the community of educational researchers. LEA advisors.relevant. All these groups need acknowledgement. values and traditions. Perfection in research is not to be found: There is no hope of doing perfect research. Danger has to be acknowledged. parents. There can never be a tidy overarching rationale or masterplan for improving fairness. for instance. Reflexivity is needed about the researchers' own socio-political positions and interests. Argument. Good research also requires researchers to be open to the community of educational and other researchers. It is important that the researchers acknowledge their allegiance to beliefs. children and parents. Their most dearly held knowledge and values may be based in these principles of research for social justice. Reflexivity about own position and interests . race. less powerful. support staff. voices. 9. 8. advances need to be recognised and celebrated. advisors. AN INTRODUCTION TO QUALITATIVE RESEARCH BIBLIOGRAPHY . the situation will most probably have changed. It follows that all research must be subject to critique. Strategies are needed to listen to quiet. policy-makers and pressure groups. This may mean that there are areas in which a research programme is excellent. 6. Utopia does not exist. class. teachers. support and understanding. eg pupils. This is not to deny that some groups/individuals do have more power than others but the tendency is to focus in this one direction. This is a source of the reflexivity mentioned in (7) and (8). anger and risk are all part of the process. Does your work embrace these principles or do you think they are valid enough to adopt? Further Work Caution does need exercising with the use of concepts such as empowerment and power. for instance. Time constraints and compromises are inevitable. Most common assumptions are based on top down.

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uk/ .socresonline.Sociological Research Online: an on-line journal. http://www.org.