Outline and explain why and how qualitative approaches and quantitative approaches allow us to gain an insight into social problems. In what ways does the triangulation of information from different approaches and sources benefit the research processes?.
In social research, both qualitative and quantitative approaches are used to gain an insight into social problems. These two approaches are very different but are not mutually exclusive; many of their distinctions are not as clear-cut as they appear. Both approaches have a set of assumptions about society and the social world and these assumptions determine, to an extent, the course a piece of research may take.
Firstly, qualitative research uses words as its basic unit of analysis and this leads the research to be more descriptive and less interpretative than quantitative research (Alasuutari, 1998). Qualitative research would argue that it is necessary to use descriptive methods when studying the social world, as it is complex and fluid and not, in its essence, suited to an analytical approach.
It is in the same vein that leads to another assumption that the social world is a whole consisting of many different structures and parts. This is the naturalistic view and the research, consequently, has to look at a big picture or the holistic focus (Denscombe, 1998). .
This type of research seeks validity in studying phenomena in context, which includes the researchers own input into the study. In qualitative research, the influence of the researchers own beliefs and moral values is addressed and viewed as an integral part of the context the phenomena is in. There are two options to deal with this input, either the researcher tries to distance themselves from the study or they admit their possible biases and this is taken into account during the analysis of the results (Denscombe, 1998).
In qualitative research, theory and methods may emerge during the study and due to the amount of researcher involvement and the diversity of the data collected, these studies are usually small scale.