Research methodologies

In today’s lecture we were introduced to research methodologies more specifically qualitative research and quantitative research. We covered research strategies, ethics and the reasons one might want to perform a piece of research. In this essay I try to define in detail the difference between qualitative and quantitative research.

Qualitative research is especially helpful in situations where what you are studying is too complex to isolate a single variable such as people in social situations. Researchers often immerse themselves in the setting in order to see what they are studying in context (Mason, 2002). This means a large part of the researcher’s job is analysing their own input, being aware of their own role in what they are studying. This is one of the criticisms of the qualitative approach since the ‘researcher’s presence has a profound effect on the subjects’ and thus experiments are not repeatable (Hughes). Despite its shortcomings it plays an important role in studying complex systems it is the qualitative approach which often leads to new insights and opens avenues for further quantitative research (Hughes).

Quantitative research is used when testing a single variable’s relationship to another. Researchers will start with a clearly defined question and design all the details of the study before any data is collected. The results of the research are structured tables of values and statistics. Computers allow researchers to process large data sets making it possible to make accurate generalizations and predictions. Quantitative research only works in systems where you can totally isolate variables and when this is the case it can be effective at understanding true objective relationships. (USB Libraries, 2016)

These are not totally separate techniques and when researching outside of science it is often effective to use both qualitative and quantitative methods (Denscombe 2010). For my studio work though I can see the qualitative method as being more useful as so much of my work involves many unknowns and tends to be exploratory.


Denscombe, Martyn. (2010) Good Research Guide: For small-scale social research projects. 4th edn. Berkshire: Open University Press

Hughes, Christina, An Introduction to Qualitative Research. Department of Sociology. University of Warwick. Available at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/hughes/researchprocess/. (Accessed 29t November 2016).

Mason, J (2002) Qualitative Researching, 2nd edn. SAGE Publications Ltd

Wilson, V (1997) Focus Groups: A Useful Qualitative Method for Educational Research? British Educational Research Journal, 23, 2, pp 209-224

University of Southern California. (2016) Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Quantitative Methods. Available at http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/quantitative. (Accessed 8t November 2016).