Quantitative Research Essay

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Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is based on statements such as "anything that exists exists in a certain quantity and can be measured." "While Thorndike’s statement from 1904 appears to be fairly innocent and direct, it staked an important philosophical position that has persisted in social science research throughout most to this century." (Custer, 1996, p. 3). In 1927, William F. Ogburn successfully lobbied to have Lord Kelvin’s motto: "When you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory" prominently and permanently carved onto the face of the University of Chicago’s social science research building." In this decade, however, the competing paradigms of quantitative and qualitative research have become
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Qualitative methods, on the other hand, are appropriate when the phenomena under study are complex, are social in nature, and do not lend themselves to quantification" (Liebscher, 1998, p. 669). Quantitative research is based primarily on positivistic thought and qualitative research is more constructivist in theory. Until recently, the strict scientific methods employed by quantitative analysis have been considered the best way to conduct any meaningful research. "The positivist notion that qualitative data is inherently untrustworthy and therefore to be avoided is untenable. Arguments are advanced to support the view that social research is based on ‘qualitative knowing’ and that quantification extends, refines, and cross-checks qualitative knowledge" (Howe, 1985, p. 10). In other words, current thought holds that the two paradigms are not mutually exclusive and could very well support each other in most social science inquiry. "To disparage qualitative data as subjective is to accuse it of having high fallibility; to laud the objectivity of quantitative data is to construe it as having low fallibility" (Howe, 1985, p. 13).

At first glance, quantitative data might appear to be uniformly superior. For example, "There are x students in the classroom" is an instance of quantifiable research. By contrast, observing the workings of a classroom in terms of the group dynamics
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