Writing and Presenting Your
Thesis or Dissertation
S. Joseph Levine, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan USA
Note #4 - Qualitative or quantitative research?
I I have been surprised to find that students often select a qualitative methodology to use for their research because they are fearful of the statistics needed for a quantitative study. It seems that they feel the easier approach is a qualitative (not a quantitative) approach. However,I find that a qualitative approach to research can be much, much more difficult than a quantitative approach! Why?
A quantitative methodology is based on very clearly defined methods and techniques. The presentation of data can follow very clear and well organized techniques. When data are analyzed findings can be described according to established criteria. Whether or not a finding is "significant" is a matter of a statistical test. When you get to the end of a quantitative study you know you are there.
On the other hand, data collected through a qualitative study is not nearly so easy to describe. The data may be interview responses, behavioral observations, or answers to open-ended questions. Creating a system for grouping these types of data can be very difficult. Deciding when a response is important is a subjective matter. Limiting researcher bias can be hard to "prove". And, it is seldom clear when you have arrived at the end of a qualitative study. (Because of this qualitative studies can go on for many pages.)
It's important to become familiar with both qualitative and quantitative research methods before you select the method for your own research.
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Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation