Qualitative Research Strategies as Prerequisite for Quantitative Strategies

Article excerpt

Introduction, Problem Statement and Aim

For many years there has been an epistemological debate on what scientific research is about. The differences between quantitative and qualitative research have according to De Vos, Schurink and Strydom(1998:15) "developed into a full-blown debate which has involved scholars and practitioners in a, sometimes, almost vindictive polemic." Some researchers argue that quantitative research is the only kind of scientific research and scoff qualitative strategies, and recently visa versa has taken place. One can ask the question as to how valid this particular argument is. At this stage it seems as if these two camps of researchers are socially to a certain extent forced to tolerate each other. In this article the authors attempt to reason that it is imperative for these two camps of researchers to take hands in conducting research. They reason from a classic, generally accepted scientific model that they cannot ignore each other in conducting research.

To achieve the aim of the article we will address the following:

* Definitions of quantitative and qualitalitative research

* A classic method of scientific investigation;

* Principles of conducting scientific inquiry;

* The question on the place of qualitative and quantitative strategies in the process of research; and

* A strong argument for qualitative research strategies as a prerequisite for quantitative strategies.

Definitions of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

The central focus of this article, that is, quantitative and qualitative research has to be addressed. According to Schurink (1998: 241)

   * "The quantitative paradigm is based on positivism which takes scientific
   explanation to be nomothetic (i.e. based on universal laws.) Its main aims
   are to objectively measure the social world, to test hypotheses and to
   predict and control human behavior.

   * In contrast, the qualitative paradigm stems from an antipositivistic,
   interpretative approach, is idiographic, thus holistic in nature, and the
   main aim is to understand social life and the meaning that people attach to
   everyday life."

A Classic Method of Scientific Investigation

According to Fox (1969:492) the five-step method of observation can be regarded as the classic method of scientific research. He states that the researcher:

(1) observes natural phenomena;

(2) draws conclusions as to what is happening;

(3) utilizes the conclusions to formulate hypotheses (predictions) pertaining to the causal relationship between certain observations;

(4) test the hypotheses over time; and

(5) attempts to develop theories to explain why it is happening. Thereafter the spiral of scientific investigation manifests in building and developing the body of knowledge in a specific field.

In the development of research methodology and approaches to analyze research problems a certain school of thought opts to over-emphasize the quantitative approach regardless of the demands of the phenomena involved. The quantitative methodology and its requirements almost became the only accepted methodology even to the level of an ideology. In some discussions it often seems as if statistics and hypothesis testing dictated the research process rather than the research problem and the phenomenon being researched itself. Such an approach quite often led to the quantification of man. Respondents thus quite often becomes mere numbers. Research seemed to become equivalent to a mechanical implementation of a measurement instrument and statistical testing. In view of this, the question arises whether it is acceptable to equate statistical significant results to a substantial contribution to the body of scientific results.

The situation described above and the rippling side effects lead to a situation of dissatisfaction with what was happening in the research field amongst researchers. …