So if the difference between qualitative and

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So, if the difference between qualitative and quantitative is not along the exploratory- confirmatory or inductive-deductive dimensions, then where is it? The heart of the quantitative- qualitative debate is philosophical, not methodological. Many qualitative researchers operate under different epistemological assumptions from quantitative researchers. For instance, many qualitative researchers believe that the best way to understand any phenomenon is to view it in its context. They see all quantification as limited in nature, looking only at one small portion of a reality that cannot be split or unitized without losing the importance of the whole phenomenon. For some qualitative researchers, the best way to understand what’s going on is to become immersed in it. Move into the culture or organization you are studying and experience what it is like to be a part of it. Be flexible in your inquiry of people in context. Rather than approaching
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15 PROBLEMS OF EDUCATION IN THE 21 st CENTURY Volume 13, 2009 measurement with the idea of constructing a fixed instrument or set of questions, the researcher should allow the questions to emerge and change as they become familiar with what they are studying. Many qualitative researchers also operate under different ontological assumptions about the world. They don’t assume that there is a single unitary reality apart from our perceptions. Since each of us experiences from our own point of view, each of us experiences a different reality. Conducting research without taking this into account violates the fundamental view of the individual. Consequently, they may be opposed to methods that attempt to aggregate across individuals on the grounds that each individual is unique. They also argue that the researcher is a unique individual and that all research is essentially biased by each researcher’s individual perceptions. There is no point in trying to establish “validity” in any external or objective sense. All that we can hope to do is Focusing Qualitative Inquiry Deciding on a topic locates your research; this is where you are researching. Framing a qualitative question is harder, because it requires that you think about what needs to be asked in this research location as well as what you can ask and reasonably expect have answered given your resources and skills. A research question is a starting point only if it is researchable. One of the most difficult tasks for the beginning researcher is to think qualitatively before the research begins. A researchable qualitative question is not the most obvious outcome of reflecting on a topic. The big first questions are as follows: What needs to be asked? How should it be asked? • What data are required, and • where will the researcher have to go to find answers to these questions?
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  • Fall '19
  • Qualitative Research

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