Quantitative and qualitative paradigms of research form two different ways of looking at the world’s phenomenon. They form two different ways to solve the problem. Some phenomenons in the world can only be solved if they are understood using qualitative paradigm and techniques. Other problems can only be solved using quantitative paradigm and techniques. In the modern world many researchers combine both quantitative and qualitative approach to solve problems, which is called mixed method approach.
When looking at the research paradigms from quantitative and qualitative aspects, one must know why certain approach is called as quantitative or qualitative? A paradigm is formed by its ontology, epistemology, and axiology. These three define whether a paradigm fits quantitative approach to solve problems or qualitative approach. According to Schwandt, 2001, a paradigm is a shared world view that represents the beliefs, and values in a discipline and that guides how problems are solved. These shared world views are formed by the
- Ontology, our belief about the nature of the reality;
- Epistemology, ways of knowing that reality; and
- Exiology, ethics and values about what we believe is true
To know about the ontology, epistemology, and axiology of a research problem we have to use a systematic methodology that will help us reach the solution. This methodology can be quantitative, qualitative, or mixed method. Therefore, the use of right methodology is crucial to reach to the right solution. As a researcher you should have understanding of both quantitative and qualitative approach to make the right decision about what to use in your research.
Quantitative research paradigm
The quantitative research paradigm dominated the scientific research until late 20th century. By the end of the twentieth century other paradigms gained prominence. Quantitative research paradigms are based on the philosophy that every phenomenon in the world can only be explained by positivist paradigm. They believe that there is only one truth and explanation of a phenomenon that can be reached using empirical methods and quantitative methodologies. They argue that every research should be generalizable to some extent to similar situations.
Quantitative research quantifies variables and solves problems using numeric assessment. The ontology in a quantitative research is a true reality that exists in only one form. The process the investigator uses to know that truth is quantitative in nature, this is epistemology. The methodology adopted by quantitative research is mostly experimental with focus on hypothesis testing.
Quantitative research paradigm gained prominence due to its ease to adopt to standard ways to conduct the research. Quantitative research is also highly generalizable as compared to the qualitative research.
Qualitative research paradigm
Qualitative research paradigm was dominated by the constructivist approach to solve the problems. Constructivist believe that there is a strong difference between qualitative research and qualitative research. Both type of research cannot be solved using one paradigm. Until the birth of the pragmatic paradigm it was believed that qualitative research cannot be combined with quantitative approach. Pragmatic approach combined quantitative and qualitative approach in one methodology. This mixed method approach help the research better understand otherwise purely qualitative research.
The constructivist believe that there is a constructed reality that is based on the experiences, circumstances, and situations. The reality is not a single reality and therefore the generlaizability of one outcome to other similar situation is difficult. To study a phenomenon you need to know about the situation that influenced it. Every phenomenon is different due to the situation which caused it to happen. The approach to solve problem is usually subjective and qualitative.
- Qualitative research paradigm”. University of Connecticut. https://researchbasics.education.uconn.edu/qualitative_research_paradigm/#
- Chilisa, B., Barbara K. “Selecting a research approach: paradigm, methodology, and methods”. (Chap. 3).
- Schwandt, T.A. (2001). Dictionary of qualitative inquiry. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- “Type sof research paradigms”. Research Articles.
- “Introduction to research paradigms”. Research Articles.