Should psychologists use quantitative methods rather than qualitative methods?

Ok, so I’ve briefly spoke about qualitative and quantitative in my previous blog “Do you need statistics to understand your data?”. But this week I’m going to discuss if either scientific researchers should pick one method over the other. I have mentioned before that I preferred qualitative ways of research, however, after playing around with qualitative methods in the small group session on Wednesday, I began to reconsider my opinion.. as at times I felt as though I was doing an English assignment rather than a scientific assignment..

I mentioned in my other blog post that qualitative research wants to find explanations for behaviours/patterns rather than numbers and statistics. But you could say that even if qualitative methods do provide answers to theories, how are we to know if they’re the correct answers? What we do know however, is that statistics do give us either a right or wrong answer. Kerlinger (1999) was not a believer of qualitative data; he believed that everything is either 1 or 0.

So why is quantitative research so great?? Because this type of research allows the researcher to measure variables and analyze the findings, also, relationships between variables can be studied in depth. As quantitative methods have the ability to measure data using statistics, quantitative researchers can test hypotheses and produce reliable results. Unlike qualitative research, quantitative researchers are less likely to have a subjective view of the participants as they’re not as heavily involved, which means the outcome is less likely to be bias.

However, quantitative research isn’t so great all the time… A huge downfall with this type of research is that it ignores the context of the study, there does not tend to be an outcome of explanations of how to improve/solve a theory.

This is where qualitative research pops back up.. the only way to solve the issue of quantitative research lacking explanation, is to introduce qualitative research back in! Like Campbell (1994) would suggest… all research needs underlying qualitative research!!

Even though I may have felt as though I was back in an English class when playing around with qualitative research, I am able to appreciate the fact that qualitative research allows us to gain detailed data in written descriptions. Qualitative research even allows researchers to analyze visual evidence and produce answers from photographs, something that quantitative cannot do. Unlike quantitative research, qualitiative allows the researcher to look at the context and try and find out how something is affecting individuals and how it can be improved.

This little video basically sums up my blog!!! Lol

 quant vs qual 

So to conclude, I don’t think scientists should choose between the two. To get the best results possible, quantitative and qualitative methods should be combined together :-).

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6 thoughts on “Should psychologists use quantitative methods rather than qualitative methods?

  1. World of Statistics says:

    I highly agree with your conclusion in that in order to achieve the best possible outcome, qualitative and quantitative methods should be combined and seen as complementary as opposed to being compared against. They are both different in their own ways and it is important for researchers to acknowledge that. For example, Piaget generated his theory of child development through the observations of his own children, therefore using qualitative methods. On the other hand, Fred Kerlinger quoted “There’s no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0.″ I highly disagree with this as you do not solely need qualitative data to generate theories, as seen by Piaget. In addition, qualitative data enables us to see the whole picture as we get an insight into the participant’s thoughts and feelings, as opposed to relying on an average number. Consequently, a disadvantage of qualitative data is that social desirability bias is a frequent issue as participant’s may be providing the researcher with the answers that are in favour to them, not what the participant truly feels, therefore raising the issue of validity.

  2. groundblogday20 says:

    I agree with you in principle but I came across an article by Bazeley the other day (http://www.researchsupport.com.au/MMIssues.pdf) who suggested that it is hard to define any research as mixed methods (both qualitative and quantitative) because there does tend to be a bias in one direction in most studies. Bazeley also suggested that researchers focus on the combining of both methods strength and ignore the fact that they also combine weaknesses. I think, with the exception of research which is in a totally new field, all research could probably benefit from using a bit of both method provided the researcher takes the possible drawback into consideration when making their conclusions.

  3. psud1a says:

    You really do raise some great points through-out this blog, and not to sound too much like a mimic, all I can do is agree. Quantitative research is definitely the more scientific measure of the two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ more important. As you rightly stated, qualitative data gives us the whole picture of the research, and helps put context into statistics which otherwise may be seen as pointless. In a way it’s this qualitative research that puts a different type of “significance” into the findings. For me, qualitative research helps suggest that there is some validity in your original hypothesis. Through means such as observation and semi-structured interviews, we are able to carry out initial research into our hypothesis, and potentially refine our hypothesis based on our findings. From there we can use quantitative means and research to offer solid and reliable empirical evidence. Numerous statistical tests can then be carried out and add validity into our findings. Qualitative is almost like dipping our big toe in the water, before diving head first in with quantitative. Both have their place in psychology, and are able to compliment research in very different ways, but both aim for the same outcome. I really enjoyed this blog, and can’t wait to read the next one 🙂

  4. statisticallybloggingisuncool says:

    You raise some good points, I agree with you that quantitative is more objective but also that qualitative research has its place. It makes other avenues of research far more apparent for quantitative study. I do think that open interviews have their limit however as some research suggest that what people think and what people do can be very different. So as far as I’m concerned qualitative can help pave the way for research but quantitative research can do the real science.
    ROBERT A. M. GREGSON and BARRIE G. STAGEY (1982) SELF-REPORTED ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION; A REAL PSYCHOPHYSICAL PROBLEM. Psychological Reports: Volume 50, Issue , pp. 1027-1033.
    doi: 10.2466/pr0.1982.50.3c.1027

    …You’re still a loser

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