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Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Designs Critical Essay


Introduction

The word research is made up of two syllables; re and search, Re implies doing again while search means carefully. The term research can therefore be used to imply the systematic study of a particular topic with the aim of establishing certain facts or principles (Hunter, Laura & Erin 2008).

The practice uses scientific methods to come up new worldviews and opinions that are both applicable and reasonable. It must adhere to certain criteria. Research can be either qualitative or quantitative.

Qualitative research looks more into the why and how of a certain event and thus requires fewer but detailed samples. Quantitative research on the other hand implies investigating social phenomena through the use of statistical techniques.

It also entails employing models and theories related to the particular phenomena and analyzing data through statistics (Giddens 1990: p. 70). The two research methods can be said to be unique and important in that qualitative research focuses more on the facts behind a particular theory while quantitative research analyses data through application of statistical techniques.

This paper seeks to evaluate and critique the two research methods by comparing two studies conducted using the two different research methods. The studies are listed below:

  1. Article 1: Transferring Human Resource Practices from the United Kingdom to China: The Limits and Potential for Convergence by Gamble 2010 (qualitative)
  2. Article 2: A Cross-national Comparison of Cultural Value Orientations of Indian, Polish, Russian and American Employees by Woldu et al. 2007 (quantitative)

Both articles are published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management. The two studies focus on the same research topic but employ two different research methods. Through evaluation of the two studies, the author seeks to establish the validity and reliability of the two techniques by focusing on design and epistemology of each study (Ragin 1994: p. 63).

Aims and Objectives of Study

Article 1 (the qualitative research) seeks to analyze the United Kingdom and the Chinese business systems (Gamble 2010). The author of the study (Jos Gamble) aims at exploring the transfer of British retail firms’ human resource practices from the United Kingdom to the Republic of China.

These two nations are separated by a wide cultural gap. More focus is on the transfer process of the firm’s flat structure to a nation that puts more emphasis on hierarchical structure of management (Maanen 1988: p. 24). The study also seeks to establish the limits of the convergence between the two cultures.

The second article (the quantitative research) evaluates orientation into cultural values among workers in Russia, United States of America, Poland and India (Woldu et al. 2007). The authors’ focus is on establishing cultural differences between the countries as well as the cultural similarities among the workers from the countries and who are working in local organizations. The study also aims at creating the awareness that intercultural competence is critical for world class firms (Creswell 2003: p. 56).

Epistemological Positions

The first study aims to address the effects of transferring human resource practices from the United Kingdom to China. The researcher takes a realist position given that the research focuses more on the employees on the ground rather than those in managerial positions to come to a clear consensus (Anderson 2009: p. 36).

Such employees may be considered as aware of the situation at hand better than the managers because they are the ones faced with the actual situation.

The researcher also adopts a phenomenologist position and seeks to create fresh insight on the transfer process and its aspects such as employee representation and work patterns.

This is by studying the structure of transfer and the experiences of those affected. A feminist position is also when Gamble (2010) acknowledges the fact that there are more male employees than females

The second study seeks to compare the cross-national cultural values among Indian, Polish, American and Russian employees. The researchers take a positivist position and observe cultural differences and similarities to draw conclusions.

They are also pragmatist in that they link human transfer practice with the theory that cultural convergence is eminent among employees working in both technical and professional organizations (Bryman & Bell 2011: p. 41). A feminist position is also portrayed when the researchers seek to identify the impact of values on people’s attitudes towards race and gender.

Epistemology for Research

Epistemology can be described as the study of nature and scope of a particular field of knowledge as well as how the knowledge is acquired (Easterby et al. 2008: p. 59). In the qualitative study, the researcher believes that the transfer of human resource practices from the United Kingdom to China will to some extent bring about possible cultural convergence (Gamble 2010).

Data in the research is from two United Kingdom based firms. The research covers only the first firm while the second research covers both firms. The two studies were conducted one year apart to provide reasonable diachronic view of the research.

Research consisted interviews with seventy employees some of who were interviewed more than once. The author was also allowed to select the interviewees from a range of departments enabling them to concentrate on the area they deems necessary for research. Direct comparison of the two work places ensures that the variables in the business sector are kept constant.

The Chinese employees can easily contrast their experiences with their previous employer and those with their British employer. The research method has a weakness in that there is no gender balance among the interviewees. Individuals left out during the study may also have valuable information that would be vital for the research (Creswell 2003: p. 56).

In the quantitative research, the authors hold a view that some degree of cultural value orientation is possible among Indian, Polish, Russian and American employees. The research involves correspondents from the four different countries most of whom are professional service providers.

The correspondents were also from a variety of departments. This ensured that the opinions of people from different levels were put into consideration.

The research is carried out in areas considered to be centres of multinational firms. Research was also conducted with the help of university faculties. This means that it was carried out by highly qualified individuals (Maanen 1988: p. 24).

Research was done using a questionnaire. It was expected that the correspondents had been born in their country and had lived there for more than five years. This is to make sure that they are conversant with the cultural values in their countries. The questionnaire was administered using their native language to ensure that all correspondents were fully aware of the questions asked.

The method may however fail to be fully affective since the researcher assumes that all correspondents are fully conversant with their country’s culture which may not be the case. The research was also conducted mostly in urban centres. These people live more of an urban than a cultural life (Ragin 1994: p. 63).

Techniques of Research Used

Research is normally conducted in a hierarchical order. At first, the researcher must identify the research problem to be investigated. A literature review is then conducted.

The purpose of the research should then be identified followed by the specific research question and hypothesis to be investigated (Anderson 2009: p. 36). The researcher then embarks on data collection. Data should be analyzed and interpreted and the results and evaluations documented.

Similarly the researcher conducting the qualitative study outlines the research problem being reviewed in the introduction section. This is then followed by a brief discussion of the importance of the research and its relevance to prevailing conditions in the global business sector.

The researcher then identifies the research hypothesis of the study. The researcher then collects data by carefully selecting his study group (Easterby et al. 2008: p 59). The researcher used this data to make evaluations and later tangible conclusions. The research is to the required standard and meets the author’s aims and objectives.

The researchers conducting the quantitative research also used a detailed abstract to pinpoint the research question being reviewed and went ahead to shed light on the contents of the research. They then went ahead to state the objectives of the study as well as stating the hypothesis.

Data collection then followed and the researchers analysed it to make conclusions (Hunter et al. Erin 2008). The research method meets the required standards and meets the researchers’ aims and objectives.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data collection entails identifying a suitable population and selecting samples. The researcher then gathers information from the sample with the aid of specific instruments that are valid and reliable (Bryman & Bell 2011: p. 41). Data analysis entails breaking down pieces raw data to draw conclusions and evaluate assumptions.

In the qualitative research, the author selected interviewees he felt had the necessary information from various departments. The researcher selected seventy individuals and conducted a one-on-one interview.

This method of data collection puts the interviewees at ease such that they can answer questions openly (Hunter et al. 2008). The data collected was then analyzed and presented in forms of tables.

The researchers carrying out the quantitative research selected their respondents from areas considered to be centres for multinational firms. The researchers selected professionals working in various positions.

These formed the baseline of the research. Questionnaires were then administered to the people in their native language to enhance understanding. Information is then analyzed and presented in tables.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Quantitative Research

Quantitative methods are advantageous in that the researcher is more objective in analysing the findings of the research rather than the sources used while conducting the research. In the study, the researcher draws conclusions from the views of the interviewed people (Anderson 2009: p. 36).

The method also allows the researcher to conduct measurements and analysis of data and also gives room for a detailed study of the relationship between dependent and independent variables. The method also has the ability to test hypothesis with the aid of statistical methods.

Despite these advantages, the method also has its disadvantages. One of the weaknesses is that the researcher fails to take the context of the study into consideration. In quantitative study, the researcher puts more emphasis on the sample of people being used in the research and the process.

Topics are not discussed in their natural setting but rather on people’s view. The researcher draws conclusions from people’s views rather than from facts (Hunter et al. 2008). This research design also requires a large population. This is the only way the researcher can improve the accuracy to the findings.

Qualitative Research

This design also has its strengths and weaknesses. One such strength is the fact that the study does not need a rigid plan. This enables the research to unfold naturally (Creswell 2003: p. 56).

In qualitative study, the researcher does not influence the findings. They are obtained from intensive interviews. The researcher also obtains detailed information since there is a closer interaction with the interviewees.

This method also has its disadvantages. First, the researcher has to be heavily involved in the process. In qualitative study, the researcher had to conduct the research themselves. The researcher also interprets information from their point of view which means they are prone to mistakes.

The process also consumes a lot of time. The researcher spends about an hour on an interviewee and completing the research may take them days or even months (Ragin 1994: p. 63).

Conclusion

Research methods can be classified into two. These are qualitative and quantitative research methods. The method used depends more on the researcher’s preference. It is however worth noting that the research method used will have significant effects on the outcomes and validity of the research. Both methods are however important depending on the researcher’s expertise.

References

Anderson, V 2009, Research methods in human resource management, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Bryman, A & Bell, E 2011, Business research methods, Pine Forge Press, New York.

Creswell, JW 2003, Research design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Easterby, S et al. 2008, Management research, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Gamble, J 2010, ‘Transferring human resource practices from the United Kingdom to China: the limits and potential for convergence’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 14 no. 3, pp. 369-387.

Giddens, A 1990, The consequences of modernity, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Hunter, H Laura, P & Erin, L 2008, ‘Collaborative research in sociology: trends and contributing factors’, American Sociologist, vol. 39 no.12, pp. 290–306.

Maanen, J 1988, Tales of the field: on writing ethnography, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Ragin, C 1994, Constructing social research: the unity and diversity of method, Pine Forge Press, New York.

Woldu, HG Budhwar, PS & Parkes, C 2007, ‘A cross-national comparison of cultural value orientations of Indian, Polish, Russian and American employees’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 17 no. 6, pp. 1076-1094.

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IvyPanda. "Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Designs." July 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/qualitative-vs-quantitative-research-designs/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Designs." July 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/qualitative-vs-quantitative-research-designs/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Designs'. 9 July.

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