Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
By Lillee Allee
Research methods in social sciences fall into two basic categories: qualitative or quantative. Simply defined, qualitative research involves open-ended questions, diaries and interviews. While these studies are helpful, actual analysis can be difficult. Quantitative research can be ranked, reduced to numbers, measurements and ratings. Thus, analysis is made easier with clearer conclusions. Some work offers quantitative and qualitative data such as a questionnaire which will have yes/no answers (reduced to numbers) and descriptions of events (which are qualitative.
Qualitative studies have many strengths and limitations, as do quantitative works.
Leedy and Ormond (2005) point out that problems may arise with quantitative research because it is often in a manipulated, experimental setting (such as a laboratory). While the researcher’s level of control is high in a quantitative study, there is also a chance that the results may not transfer to the general population in natural settings
Case studies would fall under qualitative research. Qualitative methods are invaluable to explore an issue and to gain some understanding, but also can be very limited in terms of generalizations. As Leedy and Ormond also note, with some qualitative studies, again such as an investigation, the researcher becomes a part of the experiment itself and this can cause some problems relating to objectivity. There is also a need for the researcher to remain understanding and willing to spend time understanding his or her role and not bring personal bias into the equation. This could inevitably cause confusion in later analysis and in provided conclusions that the data seems to support, but is ultimately flawed.
Gathering data can also be tricky. If there is more than one observer, it is very important that their results agree in terms of actual behaviors observed. Inter-rater reliability is defined as “the correlation between several ratings by independent evaluators of a variable (for example, participant’s performance) that is, the extent of agreement among the evaluators” (Corsini, 2002, p. 502). Leedy and Ormrod state it “is the extent to which two or more individuals evaluating the same product or performance give identical judgments” (p. 97). This is an important area that needs to be discussed between paranormal teams and the entire community.
Corsini, R. (2002) The Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Brunner Routledge.
Gladding, S. T. (2005). The counseling dictionary. (2nd ed.) Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2005). Practical research: Planning and design (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
McLeod, Saul. Qualitative Quantitative (2008) Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/qualitative-quantitative.html
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