GEN3501: Research Methods for Social Science

Qualitative Research

Positivism as the Mainstream Philosophy of Social Research Methods for Social Science
•It treats physical science as the model for social sciences in terms of logic of experiment
•It is concerned with the testing of theories/hypothesis (confirmed or falsified)
•It emphasized on objectivity, replicability, causality, representativeness, generalization
•For achieving above objective, questionnaire survey and experiment becomes the significant tool
•Through these methods, concepts can be operationalized in terms of indicators.
•It intends to use neutral observation language, use standardization of procedures of data collection
For example: Survey
•The analysis is based on the logic of statistics
•Thus, correlation or association between the variables have only a high probability; so that encourage great concern with sampling procedures for the generalizability of findings.
Critique of Positivism…
•Positivist approaches are taken to demonstrate a tendency for the researcher to view events from the outside
•It is an undemocratic way of research process. *Researcher most of time impose their meaning to the to the subject of investigation
•Survey data are seen as deficient in \’rich\’ and \’depth\’ for they provide superficial evidence on the social world, winkling out the causal relationships between arbitrarily chosen variable which have little or no meaning to those individuals whose social worlds they meant to represent.
•Subject position of the researchers are missed
•As the researcher as themselves construct the social world via their interpretation; social researchers are part of the social world they study. In whatever role the researchers taken, the
social world they participating change, so how people respond to the presence of the researcher may be as informative as how they react to other situation. •must recognize that research is an active process, in which accounts of the world are produced through: –selective observation and theoretical interpretation of what is seen, –asking particular questions and interpreting what is said in reply, –writing field-notes and transcribing audio and video-recordings, – writing research report.
•The process of understanding inevitably reflecting the \”prejudices\”, the pre-understandings, of interpreter •The interpretation of text no longer be seen as a matter of capturing social meanings in their own terms, the accounts
produced inevitably reflecting the socio-historical position of the researcher
Main Feature of Qualitative Methodology

  • The philosophical underpinnings of qualitative methodology are typically attributed phenomenology and symbolic interactionism.
    Social world should be studies in its natural state undisturbed by researchers.
    Commit to seeing the social world from the point of view of the actors e.g how the people involved see their own actions and those of others, and the context in which the action takes place.
    Seeking for contextual understanding so that behavior is to be understood in the context of meaning systems employed by a particular group or society.
    Emphasizes discovering unanticipated findings and the possibility of altering research plans in response to unexpected occurrences-Fluid and Flexible.
    Not emphasize upon fixed measurements, hypothesis testing.

Qualitative and Quantitative, what do they mean?
Qualitative research usually aim to explore question(s) with no pre-set hypothesis
(假說). A qualitative approach is more gaining in-depth insight on certain social
phenomenon that it is about empirical generalization that can be applied to a population.
The design of a qualitative studies is: Naturalistic: looks at the real-world situations as they unfold naturally. Emergent: open to adjusting researcher\’s question and methods to pursue new lines of inquiry.
Quantitative research questions basically contain a hypothesis and/or try to predict something. Approach include: p Descriptive: How often?
p Comparative: What is the difference between… p Relationship-based: A to B? B to A? or else?
Quantitative studies are characterised by tools that are structurally designed before data
collection, sampling with larger.

Quantitative and Qualitative what approach to choose

Qualitative in nature Quantitative in nature
Interpretivist paradigm
Focus on meaning
Positivist paradigm
Focus on \’facts\’
Try to understand what is happening Look for causality and fundamental laws or orders
Look at the totality of EACH situation Reduce phenomena to simple elements
Develop ideas through induction (歸納) from the data collected Formulate hypotheses and test them
Use multiple methods to establish different view of phenomena under investigation Operationalize concepts so that they can be measured
Small samples investigated in depth over time Take larger sample size

Example of Qualitative research method
▸Individual face-to-face interviews
▸ Normal practice: 30- 60 mins
▸ In-depth: 60-90 mins
▸ Content: structured, unstructured or semi- structured
▸Focus group discussion
▸Case study
▸Textual analysis: Review of related researches, analysis of related themes and conclusion
Main Feature of Qualitative Methodology
>Social world cannot be understood in terms of simple causal relationship or by the consumption of social events under universal laws.
>It resists schemes or models which over-simplify the complexity of everyday life.
>It rejects stimulus-response model, same physical stimulus can mean different things to different people.
>It rejects the discovery \”law\” of human behavior since human behavior is continually constructed and reconstructed on the basis of people\’s interpretations of the situations they are in.
>In order to proceed with research into the social world and to get close to his/her subject and to see the world from their perspective, it requires:
-Extensive interaction(extended period and unconstrained manner) with the people being studies.
-Unstructured interviewing and life histories, accompanying with participant observation is the most favored techniques.
>Qualitative researchers produce data which they often call rich and depth
-Textual or non-numerical data
-Emphasize on the reflexivity, transparency, and naturalism
-The explicit employment of distinctive methodological and epistemological theories, such as grounded theory,phenomenology, ethnography and so on to investigate people\’s understanding of their live and social context.
Peeling Onion
• Qualitative research focuses on depth, meaning, and detail
• Adjectives like rich, deep, thick often used in talking about qualitative data
• Phrases like ‘webs of signification’
• Deliberate focus on ‘subjectivities’, the
participant is the expert •
Focus on building understanding from the
ground up (refer to the basic idea of ‘Grounded theory’)
• Valuing the insider perspective is crucial.
Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
• Quantitative methods relate to numbers. Data must be able to be numericized and
presented in terms of statistical patterns/
associations. Commonly positivist • Qualitative methods – non quantifiable, focus
on values, processes, experiences, language
and meaning. Data is often words/ text. Commonly non-positivist.
Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research Method

Aspects of Research Quantitative Qualitative
Relationship between researcher and subject Distant Close
Relationship between theory/concepts and research Confirmation Emergent
Research Strategy Structured Unstructured
Image of Social Reality Static and external to actor Processual and socially constructed by actor
Nature of Data Hard, reliable Rich, deep

Research Questions that Qualitative Research Method Best answers
Consider the following:
-Lived experience’ ü ‘Insider’ perspectives
-Context/ Meaning oriented rather than measurement oriented