During my undergrad study, I often wrote many research papers, mostly pertaining to current issues facing education today. Other times, I conducted statistical research to present to my classmates in the form of a presentation. One thing I didn’t realize was how science and reasoning played a part in research and what they truly mean once the information gathered is present. Today, as a graduate student, I am embarking on a new journey learning not just how we conduct research, but WHY we conduct research. I am excited to share with you my findings for the three most popular methods of research in education and other related fields.
The three most common types of research methods are Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed- Methods. Qualitative research has part of the root word “quality” which I interpret as “value”. Quantitative research has part of the root word “quantity” which I relate to number and/or statistics. As you can guess for the last method, Mixed- Methods research uses a combination of both Qualitative & Quantitative research. There are many components that set these methods apart from one another and become the reasons why researchers use the method they choose to use and when to use them.
Qualitative research “encompasses a wide range of methods such as interviews, case studies, ethnographic research and discourse analysis, to name just a few examples” (Muijs, pg 13). Numbers are not involved with Qualitative research and cannot be analyzed using statistics. Researchers who use this method aren’t looking for numbers to crunch and charts to depict meaning from, but rather explain the question/issue by looking for deeper meaning from the given response. In Qualitative research, interviews are frequently used to collect stories and opinions. During these interviews, Qualitative researchers must keenly watch the interviewee’s reaction, what they’re saying, doing, in the way they speak and even gestures. Qualitative research requires the researcher to put aside the biased view the researcher might have and be openly objective. In the interview method, researchers must ask purposeful questions and safe for the interviewee. An example question may be, “What is love?” Although this may sound like a simple question, it may become more complex as it deals with science and the sensitivity of love overall. I interviewed my elderly neighbor to get an analysis of my Qualitative question. Her response to my question was, “Love is when you are able to look past the flaws and accept the other person. Flaws are not imperfections. Flaws are perfections of humans.” My elderly neighbor has been married for 56 years and going strong. I observed her facial expression as she was responding and it appeared she was sincere yet adamant about her thoughts on love. Love was the focus of my question and what I was seemingly looking for out of the question is sincerity. Qualitative researchers who conduct interviews to analyze from ask specific questions to narrow in on what they are looking for and to sharpen their perception.
Quantitative research is entirely different than Qualitative research. Quantitative research does not deal with interviews, case studies, ethnographic research, etc. Qualitative Research is all focused on explaining a phenomenon by collecting data with numbers. Our federal government uses Quantitative research to find out our nation’s population through what? A Census. Using statistical trends to gather data is also another approach to Quantitative research. Essentially this census collects the numbers and will allow the government to depict the trend of population development. Quantitative research has “the truth is out there” mindset. The truth is out there and events and circumstances CAN be explained using numbers. Quantitative research also looks at “cause & effect”. The most commonly used method of Quantitative research are questionnaires, structured interviews and direct observations. In using questionnaires, Quantitative researchers must be sure the questionnaire is well designed, the questions are meaningful, and it answers the question the researcher wants it to answer. Since Quantitative research is geared towards numerical data, researchers typically use tools or equipment to assist with their study. These tools range from something simple as a ruler to high-tech instruments.
Many of us use Qualitative analysis and Quantitative analysis on a daily basis and it happens so quickly and naturally in our lives that we may not realize it. An example of both Qualitative and Quantitative analysis is over the weekend; my mission was to find an antique item that’ll be fitting for my living room so I set forth with this mission and visited an antique shop in Downtown Everett to discover a unique picture frame that I believe would fit right in. My quantitative analysis of the frame is that it measures to be 10”x15”, 1.5” thick and weighs 4 pounds. My Qualitative analysis of the frame is that it’s a gray finished frame with gold paint chipping off of the corners. The interesting use of paint on the frame gives the frame a coarsely texture. The overall appeal of the frame is austere and that is what I needed to complete my Victorian style living room.
Finally, the last research method is Mixed-Mode research method. This method merges both Qualitative and Quantitative research. Mixed mode research uses concentration of data collected by all methods in a study to enhance the credibility of the research. It is best to apply mixed mode research when you want to gain fuller understanding of the research problem. Merging mixed-methods approach with stories and statistical trends can give a more complete research understanding of the researcher’s problem than simply using one method by itself. When a researcher gains fuller understanding of the research problem, information becomes clearer and when the information is clear, clarity gives research results.
Mixed-methods research collects and analyzes Qualitative and Quantitative research while making sure that the results draw from a rigorous procedure to each method. Researchers will chose a frame work design that fits into the study. The first framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data quantitatively and qualitatively. The results are compared and the researcher derives to an interpretation from the findings. The second framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data quantitatively and qualitatively, but interpret results using qualitative findings. The last framework a researcher might choose would be to collect data qualitative and quantitatively, but interpret results using quantitative findings. Mixed-methods research digs deep into the question by combining qualitative and quantitative methods and can potentially lead to a theory or philosophy in research.
Muijs,D. (2004). Introduction to quantitative research. In Doing quantitative research in education with SPSS (pp. 1-12). London: SAGE.