QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS
QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS 14
QUALITATIVEAND QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH METHODS
Inmost developing and developed countries urban poverty is a majorproblem occasioned by rural urban migration, extreme poverty andunemployment among other factors. The most observable aspect of urbanpoverty is people living in deplorable urban shanties where basicamenities and social services are absent. Most families in theseurban poor families have meager source of income which isinsufficient to support their families in assessing basics for humansurvival(Mandanipour & Allen 1998).Due to lack of meaningful source of income, many people in cities andtowns results to living in informal shanties where access to cleanwater, sanitation, education, security and constant violencecharacterizes the general life. Life in these slums is purely abjectpoverty living condition characterized by absolute lack ordeprivation of basic human needs. In short, as aptly put by the WorldBank, urban poverty has people living in less than a dollar per day(Simone,2005).
However,there have been many controversies as surrounding the argument on thecorrect measure of poverty threshold. Many researchers and scholarsare in differing arguments in the correct poverty line thresholdmajority have observed that poverty levels differ from country tocountry and location to locations and as such hypothesizing that manypeople living in poverty operate in less than a dollar per day ismisleading. Furthermore, to understand urban poverty there is needfor empirical qualitative and quantitative analysis of differentregions and countries in order to arrive at a closer theoreticalmeasure of poverty. Both quantitative and qualitative insight arecritical in understand urban poverty(Wacquant, 1999).
Quantitativeresearch gathers information on quantified measures and usestatically data to explain a particular phenomena under study whilequalitative research method gathers in-depth and narrative data todescriptively explain a particular phenomenon. In this case certainaspects of urban poverty are presented through statistical measuresto explain particular social phenomenon. For instance, statistics maypresent prostitution rate as at 67% in urban poor areas compared toless poor urban areas(Marcuse, 1997).
Aqualitative researcher uses in-depth data to explain prostitution inurban slums prostitution is a result of unemployment which in turnleads to lack of resources to buy food and other basic amenities. Likewise, while a quantitative researcher explains maternal deathsusing statistical figures, a qualitative researcher will give aholistic narrative explaining maternal deaths in urban poor. However,each method of data collection has its own shortfalls. For instance,some aspects of urban poverty can not be presented qualitatively i.e.number of social services present in a poor urban area, likewise,quantitative method can not explain certain aspect that requiresnarrative description of a particular phenomenon i.e. circumstancesleading to child labor(Mingione, 1996).
Qualitativeversus Quantitative research method
Thismethod of data collection provides unique indepth insights anddescribes a scenario in a more exploratory nature. In most cases,this method of research helps to clear ambiguous situations andprovide innovative ideas. Quantitative research on the other hand,directs considerable efforts to measure concepts using numericalvalues which are then computed to provide interpretable statisticalvalues. Qualitative research is a subjective approach that focusesmore on listening, observing and interpreting a given phenomenon.This means that data the authenticity of data collected depends onthe researcher and therefore lacks the inter subject verifiability inproviding similar results from other researchers using the samemethod for a particular phenomenon in short differing insights arecollected (Slife & Williams 1995).
Incontrast, quantitative method is more objective because survey methodused is controlled to collect specific information in short, datacollected has no input from the researcher. Qualitative research doesnot use large samples but rather rely on few qualitative sources thanin the quantitative research method. In addition qualitative researchis more exploratory requiring fewer samples which needs subjectiveanalysis, the use of unstructured interview questions makes itimpossible to test hypothesis unlike when using the quantitativemethod. Comparatively qualitative data is not presented in numbersbut through textual, oral, visual, stories, interpretations and otherexpressive characterizations, while quantitative research representsa phenomenon by assigning numerical values to concepts in order toexplain and give meanings.
Therefore,qualitative method is used by researchers when gathering socialinsights, feelings and perceptions which can not be statisticallycaptured. Qualitative research is thus an exploratory whilequantitative research method is confirmatory. In most cases,qualitative researches data leads to quantitative research andtherefore used in a combined form when an intensive and conclusivedata is required. Qualitative social research relies onphenomenology, ethnography, and grounded theory and cases studies tostudy particular social issues(Wilson, 1987).
Advantagesof Qualitative research in studying urban poverty
Urbanpoverty is a phenomenon characterized by various social andindividual issues within the community and at family level.Qualitative research technique of ethnography is therefore useful incollecting detailed information about social aspects the communitysuch as urban gangs, child labor, prostitutions and the generalliving condition in the slums(Anderson, 1990).The researcher immense themselves in the community culture andparticipates in the daily lives of the members as they observe andstudy the concepts of their subject. In this way qualitative methodsis able to collect valuable insights into the behaviors a, thoughts,feelings which can not be collected using quantitative methods. Inthe same line, it is more convenient as information is collected asparticipants engage in their activities. This is very critical instudying aspects of urban poverty such as child labor, juveniledelinquency and the general living conditions of participants(Small & Newman 2001).
Anotheradvantage of qualitatative techniques in studying urban poverty isthat, unstructured free flowing interviews can be used for therespondents this makes participants more interactive andparticipatory in giving more insights about their plights. The formatused in focus group interviews helps to encourage dialogue among theparticipants on particular issue. For instance, it is easier to studyillicit brews in urban slums than when using structuredquestionnaires. Research study can be organized in the participantspremise in such a case participants feel freer to open up on thediscussion topics which makes it easier to collect and gauge theparticipants’ true feelings, frustration and depth of convictionbased on the participants’ words(Given, 2008).
Inaddition, qualitative research methods enhance a more relative, fastand easy to execute research especially in urban slums where crimeand violence are common. The researcher does not waste much time inprocedural preparation of questionnaires, probing and following upwith the participants to verify data. Data collection is done atrespondents’ convenience and hence higher chance of buildingrapport and authentic data collected through correlating with what isobserved, heard or felt. For instance, in cases of emergency, quickfocus groups of three to four groups can be organized to conductresearch (Bordens & Abbott 1999).
Inthe same line, multiple perspectives can be collected from theparticipant by allowing respondents flexibility to give more detaileddescription regarding particular phenomenon. For instance, whenstudying why a parent has not taken the child to school, a researchercan extend his study on marital status and level of parent educationwhich have direct correlation to understanding why the child has notbeen enrolled to school. Furthermore, through qualitative researchmethod, the researcher has high degree of scrutiny to ascertain ifthe respondents are been honest about their social situation(Polkinghorne, 1989).
Similarly,qualitative research method increases creativity among therespondents where a response from one respondent may trigger anotherresponse from different participants thereby bringing multiple views.Overall, qualitative research method is more useful than quantitativemethod in that it can be done quickly, gain multiple perspectives,has flexibility, gain considerable insight from each individual,good for understanding unusual behaviors, gain unique insights fromenthusiasts, can cover sensitive topics and results can be easilyinterpreted(Lupton, 2003).
Disadvantagesof qualitative research methods
Inmost cases due to lack of structured questions to guide theresearcher in data collection especially in focus groups makes itdifficult for the moderators to remain objective in most topics. Incertain cases the moderators are only provided with just enoughguiding information for conducting interviews and therefore, there isa high chance of the interviewer influencing the focus groupopinions. In addition, since participants in focus groups give indepth information, there is likelihood of few participants dominatingthe session at the expense of the others. Second problem is that thesample composition of the focus group may not adequately representviews of the expected group if the participants have similarexperience and backgrounds (Higgs, 1997).
Thefocus group may involve people who do not know each other and thismay impede participants sharing personal experiences they feeluncomfortable before the rest which would significantly bias thestudy. For instance, a young lady who was raped may feeluncomfortable sharing her story among the participants if thecomposition of focus group is all gender inclusive. Another problemis that, focus group organizations are costly to organize where moneywill be needed to rent room facilities, drinks for the participantsand other preparation expenses (Denzin & Lincoln 2005).
Furthermore,analyzing surface reactions of the respondents in both focus andin-depth interviews are prone to subjective interpretation by theresearcher or the researcher may interpret wrongly the true meaning.When using semi structured interviews in qualitative research, thereis disadvantage associated with respondents giving creative and novelexplanations or exaggerate particular situations. Since mostqualitative studies takes place at respondents’ convenient place,this may be expensive, risky and time consuming especially if therespondents are engaged in an activity as you interview (Bohman,1991).
Advantagesof Quantitative research method in studying urban poverty
Quantitativeresearch methods rely on numerical data to explain particular socialissues. The data collected is then statistically analyzed and used asa general representation of large population. One advantage of thismethod of data collection in particular to social research is that itlimits subjectivity associated with collecting data withoutstructured survey techniques like questionnaires. This means thatdata collected can be used to make generalization to the populationfrom which it was collected. The use of structured questionnairesguides the researcher in asking appropriate questions for theappropriate responses thereby eliminating bias that results from theresearcher influencing the respondents in with their opinions.Furthermore, quantitative method of research, is time savingespecially when collecting data large data from the society. Theresearcher uses a questionnaire to ask relevant and short questionsthat help save time and reduce bias from the respondent(Polkinghorne, 1983).
Inaddition, quantitative method of social research is useful in theinterpretation and assessment of phenomenon conditions. Statistics,presents attractive illustration of a given situation under study.For instance, in the study of urban poverty, statistics will beuseful in establishing the number of social amenities in thecommunity schools, hospitals and sanitation per given group ofindividuals. These statistics can therefore enhance decision makingby the government on how to increase number of schools, hospitals andother social amenities. Similarly, quantitative statistics can beused as tools of comparison which eventually aid in decision making.This means that, quantitative research method is a planning tool inwhich data collected is used to plan for future implementationprograms in a given community (Saleemi, 1997).
Furtherto this, quantitative research method is more reliable, has highercredibility for those in authority than qualitative data which may besubjective and unreliable. This means that the quantitative data canbe applied to test and validate theoretical assumptions about aparticular phenomenology. For instance, one can validate theassumption the link between poverty and illicit brews in urban slumsor poverty and early marriages. Quantitative research carried outrandomly can then be used to make generalization on the entirecommunity with less bias. Therefore, unlike the qualitative researchmethod, quantitative can be used to study large number of peoplebecause samples are picked among a large population and data analysisis fast (Steckler, et al. 1992).
Disadvantagesof Quantitative research method in studying urban poverty
Quantitativeresearch does not capture unique aspects in a given phenomenology.Such aspects as feelings, perceptions and opinions in regard to aparticular issue are not captured by quantitative methods. Data isonly captured using statistics which are hard to interpret in regardto participants feelings about particular issues. In short,quantitative method of social research gives a narrow view ofindividual’s insights and therefore can not be relied when coveringexploratory and holistic study of urban poverty. For instance, whenstatics indicate high crime in slums, very little information isavailable to descriptively asses why these crimes happen.
Furthermore,this method of data collection does not relate activity to needs orservices to demand. For instance, in the study of urban poverty,statistics indicating insecurity in slums does not show concern forthe security needs for the people or data indicating number ofhospitals but fails to explain the needs of the community in regardto what type of health facilities they need(Baker, 2008).
Inaddition, statistics can be misleading and produce wrong conclusions.To illustrate this, consider statistics indicating high prostitutionin slums due to poverty, it would be wrong to generalize suchinformation to all women even under extremes of poverty, some womencan not participate in prostitution. Furthermore, data indicatingthat all urban poor as unemployed might be misleading given that,many people have been accustomed to slum life even if they areemployed. Another disadvantage is that, the whole process ofquantitative method data collection is length and expensive.Researchers have the first select sample for study, preparequestionnaires or schedule for interviews and use much time in datacoding and analysis(Hunter, 2008).
Inthe study of urban poverty, qualitative method can be useful inrecording insightful and important personal experiences and feelingsregarding poverty. Qualitative method enhances the researchers toobserve and participate in the community as record important aspectsof the community. This means that, more ground data will be recordedas the real issues unfold in the eyes of the researcher. This hashigher chance of understanding explorativly on particular phenomenon.
However,a combination of quantitative and qualitative would give broadanalysis of the society where relevant statistics recorded wouldfacilitate in community planning and program implementations.Quantitative data is important in making comparison and decisionmaking about the given community. Therefore, a mixed or combinedmethod of study should be adopted in the study of urban poverty. Thismeans incorporating statistical values to qualitative data to get amore insight of urban poverty(Burgess & Bogue 1967).
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