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Evaluating the debate between proponents of qualitative and quantitative inquiries Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2018


Varying hypothetical and idealistic alignments to both qualitative and quantitative methods remind one that aspects of trustworthiness and excellence traverse with projected study objectives and audience.

This summary evaluates ways of promoting the credibility and quality of quantitative and qualitative inquiry by focusing on three discrete but closely linked inquiry concerns: rigorous techniques for doing fieldwork; credibility of both qualitative and quantitative researcher; and philosophical beliefs in the significance of qualitative inquiry.

While this outline evaluates some basic approaches to aspects of trustworthiness in qualitative and quantitative investigation, it is imperative to appreciate the fact that specific idealistic groundwork and particular paradigms for qualitative and quantitative inquiry will basically include an additional criteria for judging and assuring excellence, trustworthiness, and legality. In addition, the framework for these considerations has changed.

In previous literature on evaluation techniques the debate between quantitative and qualitative inquiries was in most cases strident. Recently the debate has diminished and a common ground has slowly emerged that the critical dispute is to match correctly the methodologies to empirical issues and questions, and not to generally advocate any one methodological approach for all situations.

Evaluating the debate between proponents of qualitative and quantitative inquiries

Approaches to quantitative and qualitative inquiry have become exceedingly different, including work well-versed by phenomenology, ethnography, symbolic interaction, ethno-methodology, heuristics, hermeneutics, critical theory, feminist, and positivism inquiry, among others (Patton, 1990).

Research focused on an audience of sovereign feminist scholars, for instance, may be judged by criterion far from those of research meant for an audience of state policy researchers. Action inquiry or formative research for program enhancement entails various purposes and thus various criterion of quality compared to summative analysis focused on making basic continuation decisions concerning a policy or program (Patton, 1997).

New forms of individual ethnography have surfaced focused on general audiences (Patton, 1999). Therefore, this paper will evaluate some basic qualitative and quantitative approaches to issues of data validity and credibility. It will also look into specific philosophical underpinnings, special purposes, and particular paradigms for both qualitative and quantitative inquiry.

Quantitative versus Qualitative Debate

According to Denzin (2001), there is nothing like qualitative data. The researcher holds that everything is either 0 or 1 (p.40). On the same issue Katzer et al (2002) assert that all research ultimately bears a qualitative grounding (p. 40).

A key divide between proponents of the two is that quantitative methodology is deductive and qualitative methodology is inductive. In quantitative inquiry, a hypothesis is required to set rolling the research. However, all qualitative inquiry needs a hypothesis before research can commerce (Denzin, 2002).

Another considerable difference between quantitative and qualitative methodologies is the underlying postulations about the task of the researcher. In qualitative inquiry, the researcher can inquire the most about a given condition by participating.

In quantitative inquiry, however, the researcher is basically an objective spectator that is neither involved nor affects what is being researched. These typical underlying postulations of both inquiries guide and align the kinds of data collection techniques engaged (Lincoln and Guba, 2004).

The selection of the approach to employ may reflect the intentions of those benefiting from or conducting the research and the objectives for which the outcomes will be utilized.

Decisions about which type of methodology to apply may also be aligned to the individual’s own preference and experience, the sample being used, the suggested audience for outcomes, funds, time and other resources at the disposal of the researcher (Mills, 2003).

Some researchers agree that quantitative and qualitative methods cannot be used together because the postulations underlying each culture are different. Other researchers hold that the two can be utilized in combination only by switching between methodologies: quantitative method is appropriate to offer solution to certain types of questions in certain situations and qualitative research is appropriate for others.

On the other hand, some individuals hold that both quantitative and qualitative researches can be utilized simultaneously to offer solution to a research question (Lincoln and Guba, 2004).

The credibility issue

The credibility aspect of quantitative and qualitative inquiry depends on three different but related methodology concerns: first is the rigorous methods for doing research that are keenly evaluated, with attention to aspects of triangulation, validity, and reliability; secondly is the credibility of the quantitative and qualitative researcher, which is based on experience, training, status, presentation, and track record; and lastly is the philosophical belief in the significance of quantitative and qualitative methods, that is, a well grounded understanding of quantitative inquiry, deductive evaluation, qualitative inquiry, inductive evaluation, holistic mind and purposeful sampling (Kuhn, 2006).

Rigorous techniques for doing fieldwork

Although many rigorous methods exist for promoting the quality and validity of collected data, at the centre of much debate about quantitative and qualitative outcomes are doubts about the kind of evaluation.

Statistical evaluation follows guidelines and rules while, at the centre, quantitative and qualitative evaluation is a creative procedure, based on the insights and theoretical potential of the researcher. While innovative approaches may engage more routine types of statistical evaluation, quantitative and qualitative evaluation relies from the word go on pattern recognition, a procedure epitomized in health scientist (Kuhn, 2006).

It require not be negating to the innovative issues of quantitative and qualitative evaluation to address aspects of reliability and credibility. Qualitative and quantitative analyst has a duty to be systematic in reporting adequate details of collected data and the procedure of evaluation to allow others to judge the credibility of the outcome (Lang, 2001).

Testing Competing aspects

Once the analyst has evaluated the relationships, inclinations, and probable elaborations through deductive and inductive evaluation, it is critical to look for competing and or opposing themes.

This can be carried out through deductive, inductive, or logical methods. However, method to be engaged depends on whether the study is using quantitative or qualitative approach. Deductively involves considering other ways of grouping the data that might result to variety of outcomes.

Inductively is basically the opposite of deductively, specious data is grouped together with other normal data. Logically it involves thinking about other logical alternatives and then seeing whether those alternatives can be adequately supported by the data (House, 2000).

Absence of firm supporting prove for possible methods of presenting the data or contrary schemes assists increase validity in the initial, primary explanation generated by the researcher (Patton, 1997).

Negative cases

These may be exemptions that prove the rule. For instance, in a health training program for teenagers where many of the participants successfully go through the program and indicate knowledge gains, a significant concern in the evaluation may also be determination of the reasons for not completing the programs, even if the sample for those who dropped out is small.

While conceivably not large to yield a statistical difference on the overall outcomes, these reasons my offer crucial information related to a particular subculture or niche group, and/or hints to program upgrading (Mills, 2003).

Reconciling Quantitative and Qualitative Data

Triangulation method often involves contrasting data gathered through some types of qualitative inquiries with data gathered through some types of quantitative inquiries.

This is rarely straightforward since certain types of questions warranty qualitative inquiries (e.g., developing a theory or hypothesis in the initial stages of a research, comprehending specific cases in detail and depth, understanding changes in a rigorous condition), while other types of questions warranty quantitative inquiry (e.g., testing hypothesis, generalizing from a small sample to a large population, or drawing systematic conclusions on standardized criterion).

Therefore, it is common that qualitative inquiry and quantitative inquiry are utilized in a balancing style to answer various questions that are difficult to combine in order to yield a single, statistically-integrated image of the condition.

What is more, few analysts are equally comfortable with the two kinds of data, and the process for combining quantitative and qualitative inquiry is still surfacing (Patton, 1999).

The tendency is to relegate one kind of inquiry or the other to assume minor role depending on the nature of the study and the preferences of the researchers. For instance, qualitative data are in most cases utilized for describing procedures or developing hypotheses, while quantitative data are utilized to verify and systematically compare hypotheses.

Although it is ordinary, such a distribution of labor is unnecessary limiting and rigid (Patton, 1990).

Given the various strengths and weaknesses of quantitative versus qualitative concepts, the analyst utilizing various inquiries to investigate similar condition should not anticipate that the outcomes developed by those various inquiries will automatically combine to yield some evenly-integrated outcome.

In fact, the evidence is that one must anticipate that initial misunderstandings will happen between outcomes from quantitative and qualitative data and that such outcome has to be received with varying levels of credibility.

It is significant, then to take into account keenly what each type of evaluation produces and to grant varying interpretations the opportunity to emerge and be considered as per their merits before impacting one outcome over another based on methodological preconceptions (Lincoln and Guba, 2004).

Credibility of the researcher

Having reviewed techniques of evaluation that can promote the credibility and quality of qualitative and quantitative data: testing competing explanations and taking care of negative cases, technical rigor in evaluation is a main factor in the validity and credibility of research outcomes. This section now focuses on the issue of the impacts due to the credibility of the researcher on the way outcomes are perceived (Kuhn, 2006).

Since the researcher is the medium in quantitative and qualitative inquiry, a report must bear information about the researcher. These may include; experience, training, and view that the researcher contributes to the field. Also included is the individual connection of the researcher and the program, people, or subject researched. For instance it adds value to know that the researcher of an Alcoholic program is a recuperating alcoholic.

Who financed the research and under what plans with the researcher? What prior know-how did the researcher contribute to the study subject and the research site? How did the researcher gain access to the research site? There can be endless list of questions that ought to be addressed to determine researcher credibility.

The idea is to present any professional and individual information that may have influenced data gathering, evaluation, and analysis either positively or negatively in the mind-sets of the end users of the outcomes (Patton, 1990; Kuhn, 2006).

Philosophical beliefs in the significance of qualitative inquiry

Having reviewed rigorous techniques for promoting the credibility of qualitative and quantitative evaluation and having presented methods of addressing the perceived credibility of the researcher, the third and last credibility aspect entails philosophical beliefs on the rationale for understanding of, and validity of the quantitative and qualitative inquiry, inductive and deductive evaluation, and holistic approach-all central paradigm topics.

Much of the debate about quantitative and qualitative methods roots from the long-lived controversy in science over how best to research and comprehend the universe (Fielding, 1986). This banter often takes the form of quantitative versus qualitative ways or logical phenomenology versus positivism.

The debate is stemmed in philosophical misunderstandings about the nature of reality. Various sources offer an elaborated explanation about what has come to be known as “the paradigm controversy,” a paradigm being a specific view of the universe (Patton, 1997). The idea is to remind health investigators about the heaviness of the controversy.

It is critical to be aware that both non-scientists and scientists in most cases embrace firm views about what makes up credible evidence. Given the debate, investigators utilizing both qualitative and quantitative inquiries need to be ready to discuss and defend the appropriateness and significance of approach used. Below is a brief explanation of the most popular concerns (Katzer et al., 2002).

Methodological Respectability

As Cook, one of analyst’s luminaries, asserted in his opening remarks to the 2002 Global Analyst Conference,” quantitative investigators have won the quantitative-qualitative controversy” (Katzer et al., 2002, p. 112).

The credibility of qualitative methods and quantitative determination, as often utilized, was never in doubt. Quantitative inquiry is now ascending to a degree of equal respectability, especially among evaluation investigators.

A common ground is developing in the evaluation profession that investigators and analysts need to understand and apply a variety of methods so as to be responsive to all empirical questions and address fully the idiosyncrasies of individual stakeholder requirements (Katzer et al., 2002. p. 134).


A paradigm is a perspective founded on implicit postulates, accepted meanings, comfortable traditions, values presented as realities, and beliefs projected as truths.

However, it is this issue of paradigms that entails both the strength and weakness of researchers-strength in that it triggers an action, weakness in that the very rationale for action is concealed in the unquestioned postulates of the paradigm (Patton, 1997).


This overview has evaluated means of promoting the credibility and quality of the quantitative and qualitative methodologies by dealing with three different but closely linked inquiry concerns: rigorous techniques for doing fieldwork; credibility of researcher; and philosophical beliefs or paradigm-base options.

In the past evaluation literature, the controversy between quantitative and qualitative methods was more strident. In recent times it has softened. A common ground has slowly developed that the significant setback is to match methodologies correctly to empirical issues, and not to generally employ any one methods approach to all research questions.

In a diverse universe, one issue of diversity is methodological. From time to time rules emerge in various state and federal agencies that advocate universal, standardized analytical indicators and methods for every program financed by those agencies.

Overall, I object such rules in the belief that indigenous program procedures are too diverse and findings too sophisticated to be evenly represented globally, or even nationwide, by some limited set of guidelines and procedures-regardless whether the directive be for qualitative or for quantitative concepts.

When concept decision is based on some general, political directive rather than on conditional merit, research presents no setback, needs no subtlety, offers no risk, and allows for no achievement.


Denzin, N. (2002). The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Method. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Denzin, N. (2001). Interpretive Interaction, New Park: Sage.

Fielding, N. (1986). Linking Data, Qualitative Method Series No.4, New Park: Sage Publication.

House, E. (2000). The Logic of Evaluative Argument, Monograph Series in Evaluation, Los Angeles: University of California, Center for the Study of Evaluation.

Katzer, J., Cook, K., & Crouch, K. (2002). Evaluating Information: A Guide for User of Social Science Research: Addison-Wesley.

Kuhn, T. (2006). Structure of Scientific Revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lang, K. (2001). Decisions for Christ: Billy Graham in New York: Free Press.

Lincoln, Y., & Guba, G. (2004). Naturalistic Inquiry, New Park: Sage.

Mills, C. (2003). The Sociological Animation, New York: Oxford UP.

Patton, M. (1999). Grand Canyon Celebration: A Father-Son Journey of Discovery. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Book.

Patton, M. (1997). Utilization-Focused Evaluation: New Century Text: Sage Publication.

Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation and Research Method, Thousand Oak: Sage Publication.

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