SOCI 331 Qualitative Field Research and Ethics
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Forum Question: Select from one of the two sets of questions
(Paradigms and the Belmont Report)
Paradigms are large systems of thought that are accepted by
most people, especially within a certain time or place. So, you could say that
paradigms of scientific thought (how we explain things in the physical
environment) in western history have included belief in magic, belief in gods,
belief in herbs/witchcraft, and belief in the scientific method. The era we are
in adheres to the scientific method paradigm, as that is what we use to explain
physical phenomena. Some people argue that the next paradigm we will be in will
be the postmodern one. But currently most people believe in the scientific
method, i.e. we believe that modern science produces valid knowledge. Note also
that some writers may use the term “paradigm” for any number of
subsets of thought, for example some call qualitative and quantitative research
separate paradigms, and some consider different theories to be different
paradigms – for example conflict, feminist, functionalist, etc. however the
foremost writer on the subject of scientific paradigms, Thomas Kuhn, considers
scientific paradigms to be comprised of much larger systems and eras of thought
as I have described here. See Kuhn, T.
S. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press. for more information if interested.
Within the scientific method today, are qualitative and
quantitative approaches. These are both still scientific, but they have
different underlying philosophies, or epistemologies you could say.
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Qualitative researchers like to use
“interpretivist” approaches meaning that they don’t begin with a
theory or a hypothesis. Rather, they first make observations and then look at
the data to see what main hypotheses might arise. Qualitative researchers often
use methods such as ethnography or nonparticipant observation. Qualitative
researchers are interested in “quality” of interactions, or the meanings
of interactions to the people involved.
Quantitative researchers like to use “positivist”
approaches meaning that they do begin with a theory or hypothesis, and seek to
prove or disprove it. They normally begin their research then with a set of questions,
or with an experimental design that is aimed at answering their hypothesis.
They often use methods such as surveys or experiments. Quantitative researchers
are interested in “quantity” – that is, when one variable (x)
increases , how much does another variable (y) increase/decrease /stay the
Note that the words “methods” and
“methodology” both simply refer to what type of method you are
using in your research, for example a survey, an interview,
focus groups, observation, etc. There are many types of qualitative and
Please view this video for a clear overview of quantitative
versus qualitative research.