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ERIC Number: EJ821806
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Dec
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0030-9230
Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods: Old Wine in New Bottles? On Understanding and Interpreting Educational Phenomena
Smeyers, Paul
Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, v44 n6 p691-705 Dec 2008
Generally educational research is grounded in the empirical traditions of the social sciences (commonly called quantitative and qualitative methods) and is as such distinguished from other forms of scholarship such as theoretical, conceptual or methodological essays, critiques of research traditions and practices and those studies grounded in the humanities (e.g. history, philosophy, literary analysis, arts-based inquiry). Since the early twentieth century, mainstream educational research is of an empirical nature. In quantitative research, one typically looks for a distribution of variables (how many are there with this or that characteristic) and for explanations, which can be of a deductive-nomological kind, incorporating universal laws, or be of an inductive nature, which employ statistics. Due to being subsumed under its own set of laws, quantitative research can offer an explanation either in terms of an argument (a logical structure with premises and conclusions governed by some rule of acceptance), or as a presentation of the conditions relevant to the occurrence of the event and a statement of the degree of probability of the event given these conditions. Using Polkinghorne's distinction between an "analysis of narratives" and "narrative analysis" one can further differentiate between two kinds of qualitative research. One may be interested in common features in different cases. Here the purpose is not only to describe categories, but also to deal with the relationships between different categories. In many cases this kind of research is generally analogous to a quantitative design (including hypotheses), with the exception that qualitative data are gathered, i.e. they refer to what people feel about, or what their experience is with, particular things, what they say that their reasons, desires and intentions are. To be distinguished from this is a second kind where the researcher arranges events and actions by showing how they contribute to the evolution of a plot. The plot is the thematic line of the narrative, the narrative structure that shows how different events contribute to a narrative. This interpretive research thus goes beyond research as the accumulation of knowledge and comes close to those areas of scholarship (see above) that were distinguished from educational research grounded in the empirical traditions of the social sciences. In other words, an interpretation is offered. In this paper various problems relative to the different types of research will be dealt with. It will be argued that educational research (the study of education) should be characterised by "various modes of explanation" depending on "the kind of theoretical interest" one is pursuing. That is does not give us fixed and universal knowledge of the social world as such, but rather that it "contributes to the task of improving upon our practical knowledge of ongoing social life". It presupposes "dialogue between all those involved" and furthermore "invokes a normative stance". Finally, it should be seen as a case of "positive slowness" that prevents us from being absorbed in the chaos of unmediated complexity. (Contains 24 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A