QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH: NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE
Quantitative research is empirical in nature; it is also known as the scientific research paradigm. The paradigm ensures validity by the process of rigorous clarification, definition or use of pilot experiments. That is trying out the instruments before hand, and checking their relevance with experts and assessing their reliability by use of statistical tests. This approach can be further sub-classified into inferential, experimental and simulation approaches to research. Quantitative research involves significant issues where a study seeks to create an understanding of the various assumptions that have been developed in a given study. In general, a lot of quantitative research tends to be confirmatory and deductive. But there are many quantitative researches that can be classified as exploratory as well. The data collected in quantitative research are, as mentioned, hard. The strength of producing numbers as data is that this demonstrates an ordered system Such an approach could be viewed as being necessary in an organization as big as the NHS, for as Spencer (1983) suggests, preparing an off-duty rota for 5000 employees needs quantitative methods and a computer This argument is also supported by Kileen's (1981) study regarding new mothers where there was a need to use numerical data to identify the nursing resources needed, number of nurses involved, and what difference they made to patient outcome, length of stay, cost-effectiveness of discharge planning and the length of the tune patients stayed out of hospital before any re-admission. Quantitative research is considered more reliable than qualitative investigation This is because a quantitative approach aims to control or eliminate extraneous variables within the internal structure of the study, and the data produced can also be assessed by standardized testing (Duffy 1985) This quantitative strength can be seen in the comparative analysis of patient’s and nurse’s perceptions about nursing activities in a postpartum unit, conducted by Morales-Maim (1989) However one can question the reliability of quantitative research, especially when the data have been stripped from the natural context, or there have been random or accidental events which are assumed not to have happened (Comer 1991). In quantitative research the investigator maintain detached, objective view in order to understand the facts (Duffy 1986) The use of some methods may require no direct contact with subjects at all, as in postal questionnaire surveys It can be argued that even interview surveys require the researcher to have little, if any contact with respondents, especially if hired staff carry out most of all the interviews (Bryman 1988) The strength of such a detached approach is avoidance of researcher involvement, guarding against biasing the study and ensuring objectivity Spencer (1983) argues that little is derived from such an lndirect researcher-subject relationship especially m the health care setting His major criticism is that the detached approach treats the participants as though they are objects and, as such, places hospitals on par with car repair garages Cormack (1991) also emphasizes the weaknesses of such an approach She argues that the research participants are usually kept in the dark about the study, and are often left untouched by the research itself but are expected to transfer the findings into practice These arguments are examples of the criticism that quantitative methods treat people merely as a source of data As with quantitative research, qualitative methodologies also have supposed strengths and weaknesses regarding the closeness of the relationship between researcher and respondent Duffy (1986) argues that a strength of such an interactive relationship is that the researcher obtains first hand experience providing valuable meaningful data As the researcher and the subject spend more time together the data are more likely to be honest and valid (Bryman 1988) Supporting this argument is the study by Baruch (1981) which revealed that time and the subsequent relationship built between the researcher and the subjects was crucial for a genuine understanding of the dilemma faced by parents of sick or handicapped children This appears to be a major strength of the qualitative approach itself, as Woodhouse & Lavingwood (1991) pointed out in their study of a multi-agency substance abuse project They claimed that the approach, because of the interactive method, far exceeded expected evaluation outcomes, by contributing to empowerment, and enhanced communication and clarification of roles among the partners involved in the project The weakness of such a close relationship is the likelihood that it may become pseudo therapeutic, complicating the research process and extending the responsibilities of the researcher (Ramos 1989) The possibility of becoming enmeshed with subjects could also lead to researchers having difficulty in separating their own experiences from those of their subjects (Sandelowski 1986) resulting in subjectivity (Cormack 1991) In its most extreme form this is referred to as 'going native', where the researcher loses awareness of being a researcher and becomes a participant (Bryman 1988)
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