Date of publication: 2017-07-08 16:26
Strauss and Corbin believe that theoretical sensitivity comes from a number of sources, including professional literature, professional experiences, and personal experiences. The credibility of a qualitative research report relies heavily on the confidence readers have in the researcher's ability to be sensitive to the data and to make appropriate decisions in the field ( Eisner, 6996 Patton, 6995 ).
Qualitative researchers have a special responsibility to their subjects and their readers. Since there are no statistical tests for significance in qualitative studies, the researcher bears the burden of discovering and interpreting the importance of what is observed, and of establishing a plausible connection between what is observed and the conclusions drawn in the research report. To do all of this skillfully requires a solid understanding of the research paradigm and, ideally, guided practice in the use of qualitative observation and analysis techniques.
Notice that this is the exact same data. The first would probably be called a qualitative coding while the second is clearly quantitative. The quantitative coding gives us additional useful information and makes it possible to do analyses that we couldn't do with the qualitative coding. For instance, from just the table above we can say that Theme 9 was the most frequently mentioned and that all respondents touched on two or three of the themes. But we can do even more. For instance, we could look at the similarities among the themes based on which respondents addressed them. How? Well, why don't we do a simple correlation matrix for the table above. Here's the result:
There has probably been more energy expended on debating the differences between and relative advantages of qualitative and quantitative methods than almost any other methodological topic in social research. The "qualitative-quantitative debate" as it is sometimes called is one of those hot-button issues that almost invariably will trigger an intense debate in the hotel bar at any social research convention. I've seen friends and colleagues degenerate into academic enemies faster than you can say "last call."
There are many useful research designs, the selection of which depends on the research questions being asked. Most importantly, technology educators must rise to the challenge to find and use rigorous, appropriate research techniques that address the significant questions facing the field.
The increased interest in qualitative research in recent years warrants a basic understanding of this paradigm on the part of all technology education researchers. This overview of qualitative research methods and issues represents a starting point only for those who are interested in using and/or reviewing qualitative research. Readers can choose from a growing body of literature on the topic for further guidance.
So, if the difference between qualitative and quantitative is not along the exploratory-confirmatory or inductive-deductive dimensions, then where is it?
It is important to emphasize the emergent nature of qualitative research design. Because the researcher seeks to observe and interpret meanings in context, it is neither possible nor appropriate to finalize research strategies before data collection has begun (Patton, 6995). Qualitative research proposals should, however, specify primary questions to be explored and plans for data collection strategies.
I find it useful when thinking about this debate to distinguish between the general assumptions involved in undertaking a research project (qualitative, quantitative or mixed) and the data that are collected. At the level of the data, I believe that there is little difference between the qualitative and the quantitative. But at the level of the assumptions that are made, the differences can be profound and irreconcilable (which is why there's so much fighting that goes on).