Selecting a Quantitative or Qualitative Research Methodology: An Experience

By Sogunro, Olusegun A. | Educational Research Quarterly, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Selecting a Quantitative or Qualitative Research Methodology: An Experience


Sogunro, Olusegun A., Educational Research Quarterly


Olusegun A. Sogunro, Central Connecticut State University

The selection of an appropriate research method has always been a dilemma for many researchers and evaluators. While the quantitative-- qualitative research debate ravages, what is obvious is that there is no one best research method for all research and evaluations. Different research purposes require the use of different research methods, separately or in concert with each other. For all practical purposes, both quantitative and qualitative methods have different, but complementary roles to play in a research process and outcome. This paper explains the experience of the author in using a mixture of the two research approaches to evaluate a leadership training program.

The fray between champions of these two distinguishable research approaches is essentially ideological and political. Basically, the two approaches differ in their ways of conducting research, and each tends to claim superiority over the other. Ironically, each tradition overtly discredits the other as if it is infallible. The stage is always charged so that, given the chance, these champions would fight at any setting to defend their research philosophies. Fueling this charged situation is the subconscious luring of graduate students into these dichotomous camps of research methodologies and paradigms, especially from the standpoint of the research orientations of the professors - instructing or advising. This paper presents my experience as a researcher, using both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Definitions

Creswell (1994) defined a quantitative research as "an inquiry into a social or human problem, based on testing a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analyzed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the predictive generalizations of the theory hold true" and a qualitative research as "an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problem, based on building a complex, holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of informants, and conducted in a natural setting" (pp. 1-2). In a very simplistic form, Punch (1998) defined quantitative research as an "empirical research where the data are in the form of numbers" and qualitative research as an "empirical research where the data are not in the form of numbers" (p. 4). Gay and Airasian (2000) defined quantitative research as "the collection of numerical data in order to explain, predict and/or control phenomena of interest" and qualitative research as "the collection of extensive data on many variables over an extended period of time, in a naturalistic setting, in order to gain insights not possible using other types of research (p. 627).

While both research approaches are equally recognized and used in conducting research, the major differences between them are in the areas of data collection and analyses. According to Gall, Gall & Borg (1999), quantitative research "rely heavily on numerical data and statistical analysis." In contrast, qualitative research "make little use of numbers or statistics but instead rely heavily on verbal data and subjective analysis" (p. 13).

My Experience in Using a Mixture of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Approaches

In the course of undertaking an evaluation study toward my dissertation, it became apparent that the suggestions given to me by my advisors were largely based on their professional preparations, interest or orientations. For instance, one professor suggested the use of questionnaire for data collection while the other suggested that the use of interviews alone would suffice. However, based on my curiosity to explore the two research approaches, I adopted the mixed methodology approach.

Between January 1994 and December 1995, I conducted an evaluation study of the impact of a leadership training program on the participants. The program was organized by the Rural Education Development Association (REDA) of Alberta, Canada.

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