Bryman 1988 p 1 Until the mid 1970s the tendency was to associate valid

Bryman 1988 p 1 until the mid 1970s the tendency was

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with participant observation and unstructured, in-depth interviewing. (Bryman, 1988, p. 1) Until the mid 1970s the tendency was to associate valid research almost exclusively with scientific method, and with the collection and analysis of measurable data, the attributes of quantitative research: To do any research we must be able to measure the concepts we wish to study. (Kidder and Judd, 1986, p. 40) Qualitative approaches were given scant attention because of their inability to conform with the conditions demanded of scientific method, and tended to be regarded as rather marginal in the researcher’s repertoire of data collection techniques. There was a clear distinction between quantitative and qualitative research and the merits of qualitative data and the results of qualitative analysis were regarded as limited, unreliable and lacking in solidity. This judgement relied principally on judgements of the technical adequacy of the techniques used. It was particularly in the field of sociology, with its focus of research on the complexities of people and the society they live in, that the appropriateness of scientific method, developed for the study of natural sciences, was ques- tioned. Research methods were required which could reveal and investigate the unique complexities and ambiguities of human subjects and their inter- action in society without imposing on them an inappropriate conceptual framework. Increasingly, the terms ‘quantitative research’ and ‘qualitative research’ came to signify much more than ways of gathering data; they came to denote divergent assumptions about the nature and purposes of research in the social sciences. (Bryman, 1988, p. 3) Qualitative research developed significant differences in its assumptions and principles from those of quantitative research. This inevitably resulted in the two approaches tending to operate with divergent tenets about the nature of knowledge, particularly that of the social world, and about how knowledge could legitimately be produced. Intellectual positions in qualitative research evolved, the main ones being phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, Max Weber’s idea of verstehen , naturalism and ethogenics. These all stress the importance of contextual and holistic understanding, with an emphasis on description, and a commitment to ‘seeing through the eyes’ of the people being studied. The fear that the researcher may fail to do justice to the subject’s orientation to the world led to the tendency for conceptual and theoretical reasoning to be left aside, or used only in the final stages of the research enterprise. Bryman (1988, p. 94) presented a useful comparison of the contrasting features of quantitative and qualitative research. Whilst qualitative research 202 YOUR RESEARCH PROJECT
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is used to construe the attitudes, beliefs and motivations within a subject, it can also perform a preparatory role in quantitative research. The researcher doing qualitative research will attempt to obtain an inside view of the phenomenon, getting as close as possible to the subject of the research in
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