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Qualitative versus Quantitative: Continuum or Collision?

Mary Sikkes

ETEC 500 (65C): Research Methodology in Education


Qualitative versus Quantitative: Continuum or Collision?

Norman K. Denzins (2009) article, The elephant in the living room: or extending the

conversation about the politics of evidence and Kadriye Ercikan and Wolff-Michael Roths

(2006) article, What Good Is Polarizing Research into Qualitative and Quantitative? both arise

out of questions related to qualitative and quantitative methods, but while Denzin highlights the

dispute (p. 139) between the two types of research, Ercikan and Roth attempt to find ways to

honour both methods on a continuum. The most significant disagreements between the two

articles are based upon the idea of polarization and the dichotomy of qualitative and quantitative

research, the existence of both qualitative and quantitative characteristics in all things, and the

question of whether a governing body should create one set of guidelines for all research to

conform to.

Throughout their paper, Ercikan and Roth (2006) propose and promote the development

of a continuum that incorporates both qualitative and quantitative research within the same scale;

thereby making the two different only by degree (p. 20). In contrast, Denzin (2009) asserts that

we must create our own standards of quality, our own criteria (p. 140), and repeatedly

references and argues against the guidelines and agendas put out by governing bodies. Denzin

discusses disguises of mix-methods research and questions how qualitative and quantitative

methods can work together (Denzin, 2009, p. 141), while Ercikan and Roth appear willing to

develop a continuum within established guidelines and choose to focus their efforts on how to

integrate approaches to encourage collaboration between researchers, emphasizing that all

phenomena are both qualitative and quantitative, everything a qualitative researcher perceives

also has a quantitative aspect; everything a quantitative researcher perceives also has a

qualitative aspect (Ercikan & Roth, 2006, p.16). Where Ercikan and Roth see a continuum,

Denzin sees a collision and argues that the two paradigms are in contradiction (Denzin,

2009, p. 141).

Most significant for me was Ercikan and Roths (2006) assertion that polarization is

confusing to many and tends to limit research inquiry, often resulting in incomplete answers to

research questions and potentially inappropriate inferences based on findings (p. 14). With

regards to educational research, I am in support of Ercikan and Roths (2006) position that

researchers must collaborate, and research methods and data should be regarded on a continuum

scale that shows a clear link between methods and data. By adopting a more integrated approach

through a collaboration of researchers and in the form of a continuum, the reasons behind the

outcomes of statistical data can be more fully addressed and researchers are not left reporting

data that is true for whatever reason (Ercikan & Roth, 2006, p. 15). In Introduction to

Educational Research, Mertler (2015) states that the basic goal in nearly all research studies is

to find answers to particular questions (p. 3) and we have been taught that the basic structure of

a research study using either method is relatively similar. It makes sense to me then that the

research methods themselves could enhance the quality and quantity of data collected when used

in combination and regarded on a continuum that connects all data regardless of the research

method used to collect it.



Denzin, N. (2009). The elephant in the living room: or extending the conversation about the

politics of evidence. Qualitative Research, 9(2), 136-160. doi: 10.1177/1468794108098034

Ercikan, K., & Roth, W.-M. (2006). What good is polarizing research into qualitative and

quantitative? Educational Researcher, 35(5), 14-23. Retrieved from:

Mertler, C. A. (2015). Introduction to Educational Research. CA: Sage Publications.