Reading Today: Social Research Strategies

Posted by: | Posted on: September 8, 2008

Key Points:

  • Quantitative and qualitative research constitute different approaches to social investigation and carry with them important epistemological and ontological consideration.
  • Theory can be depicted as something that precedes research (as in quantitative research) or as something that emerges out of it (as in qualitative research).
  • Epistemological considerations loom large in considerations of research strategy. To a large extent, these revolve around the desirability of employing a natural science model (and in particular positivism) versus interpretivism.
  • Ontological considerations, concerning objectivism versus constructionism, also constitute important dimensions of the quantitative/qualitative contrast.
  • Value may impinge on the research process at different times.
  • Practical considerations in decisions about research methods are also important factors.
  • Feminist researchers have tended to prefer a qualitative approach, though there is some evidence of a change of viewpoint in this regard.

    Question for review:

    Theory and Research

    • If you had to conduct some social research now, what would the topic be and what factors would have influenced your choice? How important was addressing theory in your consideration?
    • Outline, using examples of your own, the difference between grand and middle-range theory.
    • What are the differences between inductive and deductive theory and why is the distinction important?

    Epistemological consideration

    • What is meant by each of the following terms: positivism; realism; and interpretivism? Why is it important to understand each of them?
    • What are the implications of epistemological considerations for research practice?

    Ontological considerations

    • What are the main differences between epistemological and ontological considerations?
    • What is meant by objectivism and constructionism?
    • Which theoretical ideas have been particularly instrumental in the growth of interest in qualitative research?

    Research strategy: quantitative and qualitative research

    • Outline the main differences between quantitative and qualitative research in terms of: the relationship between theory and data; epistemological considerations; and ontological considerations.
    • To what extent is quantitative research solely concerned with testing theories and qualitative research with generating theories?
    Quantitative Qualitative
    Principle orientation to the role of theory in relation to research Deductive; testing theory Inductive; generation of theory
    Epistemological orientation Natural science, in particular positivism Inductive; generation of theory
    Ontological orientation Objectivism Constructionism

    Influences on the conduct of social research

    • What are some of the main influences on social research?

    Reference: Alan Bryan “social research methods“, second edition, ISBN10: 0199264465