- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
|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|
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