Describe the main features of qualitative research and compare the advantages and disadvantages with experimental research.

Essay by felicityUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 2004

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This essay describes the main aspects of relativist qualitative research in social psychology. Generalised comparisons will be considered between the methodology of relativist qualitative and experimental research, reflecting their different epistemology's (what can be known about human behaviour), via issues of validity, reliability and generalisability.

In accordance with a logical positivist epistemology, experimental researchers argue that social behaviour is an objective, independent reality, relying on theories which describe that reality (Megee, 2001). Theories depend on constructs and variables, and the relationship between these constructs/variables. Theories are formulated either deductively (based on logic) or inductively ( based on observation) or through a combination of these two approaches (Megee, 2001).

Methods are quantitative and attempt to understand some reality by measuring hypothesized relationships between constructs via isolation of these entities into independent and dependent variables (Smith, 1996).

Although qualitative research is an umbrella term for both relativist and realist study, this essay will focus on the former.

Relativist qualitative researchers disregard positivist logic (Hammersley, 1996). They instead affirm an idealist epistemology, endorsing relativism and social constructivism (Megee, 2001). Research is based on description rather than prediction as meaning of a phenomenon is sought instead of cause. Interpretations are typically derived through discourse analysis (Megee, 2001),

Realist qualitative researcher epistemology emanates from quantitative realist and essentialist philosophy, where real underlying entities can be denoted from data (Megee, 2001). However, repute inferences should be drawn from multiple methods of data collection. Robson (1993, as cited in Megee, 2001) proposed criteria for assessing realist qualitative research based around; credibility, verified through the utilization of multiple evidence sources and the provision of comprehensive detail concerning the data collection conditions. Dependability of data collection ensures that findings would be repeated in similar settings. Finally, transferability considers the relevance of results from one situation to another determined...