Qualitative Vs. Quantitative Social Science Sometimes Debates Essay

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Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Social science sometimes debates differences between quantitative and qualitative. On one side, positivists argue quantitative research is objective and measurable where post-positivists argue qualitative analysis allows for a rich understanding of the situation. Although qualitative and quantitative research differ in the techniques, types of data and ethical concerns, they both have their place in psychology. Let us begin by exploring the realm of quantitative research and then move on to qualitative research.

Quantitative research is research that uses numerical measures to evaluate the world. Often, this approach is used by positivists who believe in objective measures to predict the world. This epistemology says research can and should focus only on what can be observed and measured. Following is a discussion of features of quantitative research including techniques, types of data and possible ethical concerns.

There are multiple techniques used to collect quantitative data, but all techniques will ultimately make data numerical. Commonly, quantitative data attempts to collect data via surveys and questionnaires. A researcher might ask participants a series of questions in which subjects respond on a Likert-type scale. This relies on self-assessment. It is also possible for a researcher to observe a situation, either natural or in the laboratory, and code the responses by responding to a Likert-type scale. The same technique can be accomplished in an interview. In either case, observations will translate to numbers that can then be assessed for statistics such as the average, the reliability and validity.

In a study designed to analyze the investment model, the researcher used role play to manipulate a situation (Rusbult, 1980). The researcher was interested in investigating the investment model as possibly applicable to romantic relationships. As manipulating a person's actual romantic relationship is unethical, the researcher instructed participants to read a scenario and to imagine themselves as the protagonist in the scenario. The participant then responded to items on a Likert-type scale answering questions in response to what s/he would
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do in that situation. This is an example of a technique available to a researcher wishing to use quantitative methods.

Quantitative research utilizes data that is placed on a scale. There are two types of data, interval data and ratio data. Interval data measures data in increments, but there is no absolute zero. An example of an interval scale is the Fahrenheit scale. The difference between each degree is measurable and equal, but no claim can be made pertaining to the ratio between measurements. Ratio data is numerical data that has an absolute 0. An example of ratio data is age. There is an absolute zero, the time of birth. Rusbult's study mentioned earlier uses interval data to analyze participants' responses to a hypothetical situation.

In another example, when determining responses to dissatisfaction in romantic relationships, Rusbult, Zembrodt and Gunn used multiple Likert-type scales, which are commonly accepted as interval data. Using interval data allows the researcher to find the average response to the question. In this case, the researchers determined correlations between investment model variables and exit, voice, loyalty and neglect.

The quantitative researcher must be aware of ethical issues. Some quantitative methods involve manipulating the situation or asking participants to recall a situation that might have been upsetting or even traumatic for them. This raises ethical issues. The researcher, and the review board, must decide if the risk to the participant outweighs the possible benefits. It is important the participants volunteer for the experiment. This means researchers must offer fair compensation that is not too much as to manipulate persons into participating in the research. This also means special populations are protected, such as prisoners or children as these populations might be easily manipulated.

Quantitative research often uses a large sampling to increase the power to predict outcomes. On the other hand, supporters of qualitative research, often referred to as post-positivists, believe that focusing only on the observed and measurable, psychologists cannot dive into feelings, thoughts and perceptions.

Qualitative research is research that uses observation to provide a rich description of the world around the researcher. Post-positivists…

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Works Cited

Bartholomew, L.M., & Horowitz, K. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology .

Monk, A.N. (1993). Mixing oil and water? Ethnography vs. experimental psychology in the study of computer-mediated communication. INTERCHI'93, 3-6.

Rusbult, C.E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 16,, 172-186.

Rusbult, C.E. (1982). Exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect: Responses to dissatisfaction in romantic involvements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1230-1242.

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