MEd 2 – Qualitative and Quantitative Research and Research Worldview

In the past I have always favoured a mixed method approach. This isn’t so much because of my personal worldview, but the context I was researching in. Quantitative research gave me those numbers, percentages and graphs that resonated with the management team. I get the feeling I’m not the only person who has experienced this. Why do senior managers love hard figure so much? All this is assuming  a statistically significant sample of course. Then comes in qualitative. The little stories that tell you a lot. Those little glimpses into something that add up to a hint at the bigger picture. I’ve always preferred that approach I think as I’ve liked connecting with people as a researcher. I always feel I learn more.

This week I focused on studying Research Methods for Education (Newby, 2012) and an older edition of Research Design (Creswell, 2003). After James’ post on Google +, I event revisited Kirkpatrick as I had adapted some work based on that model for our service level evaluation. There were some important things I wanted to move towards with this – moving away from mere evaluation to look at outputs and impact. This naturally required a new focus on the later stages which required fitting it all into a bigger framework.

What distinguishes a qualitative study from a quantitative study?

Quantitative Qualitative
1 Tests/verifies explanations or theories to produce a measurable truth. Other researchers should be able to replicate results. Uses closed ended approaches/questions to measure and quantify. Collects meanings to explore the different views people subscribe to. Uses open-ended questions and approaches.
2 Produces a single quantifiable truth* Produces meaning(s) from the individualised reality perceived by people – there is no single truth*.“People subscribe to different views and believe valid but different truths*” (Newby, 2010: pp45)
3 The researcher is objective and neutral. Unbiased and rigorous approaches are used The researcher is not unbiased and can be committed or based within the community being studies.  Interpretation of results can be

I have labelled my top characteristics above. I felt the need to draw out some further differences and some similarities:


4 Is valid where approach is rigorous and accepted
5 *Produces ‘constructed’ knowledge and truths. There is no such thing as an indisputable truth. Any ‘truth’ may later be disproved. (See discussion on Henry’s blog)
6 Data takes the form of numbers Data can take any form
7 Positivist Constructivist

I am still wary of my choice in a table to draw out the differences between qualitative and quantitative. I think I wanted to do this as I could link rows to show similarities too. Although it is an obvious one, I still feel the need to justify qualitative approaches. I sadly still come across individuals who dislike things they cannot put a ruler against to produce a nice statistic.

I am still aware I am missing my third blog post that was due this week. Sadly I am still playing catch up with the course. This week had a HUGE amount of required reading which I have simply not got through due to unforeseen circumstances this morning. I did particularly enjoy reading Newby’s first chapter. I found the ‘warnings’ amusing and truthful. Newby labels research in educational contexts as highly political which I think we can all relate to . I think this is especially apparent within HE as there are institutional politics ontop. I think Newby presents a worst case scenario in suggesting that research can “make you enemies”. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but I think it raises useful points about considering how to approach a topic that may dispute orthodoxy or identify a different approach/path/strategy to the one agreed.


Creswell, J. W. (2003) Research Design, Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Method Approaches

Newby, P. (2010) Research Methods for Education

Leave a Reply