Make Peace in the War of Methods: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research
Wednesday December 27th 2006, 1:23h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Research

While preparing to start writing my first paper for a ‘real’ journal I studied the recent publications in the Journal of Management Science, the journal where we intend to submit our work by the end of January 2007. Appropriately enough I encountered a great methodological article in the current issue, ‘Building Better Theory by Bridging the Quantitative–Qualitative Divide‘, written by Sonali K. Shah and Kevin G. Corley.
It clearly explains the key issues of the frequent discussion on quantitative vs. qualitative research methods and shows the outlines of grounded theory building:

1. Define a research question
2. Find case(s) by theoretical sampling
3. Apply constant comparisons on collected data (four iterative stages)
1) Comparing incidents applicable to each category (coding, comparing and memoring)
2) Integrating categories and properties
3) Focusing the theory
4) Writing the theory
-> Goal: To find concepts that explain patterns in the data
-> Continue until theoretical saturation is reached (no more information is uncovered through the analysis of the data)

Concerning rigor of qualitative research, table II shows four techniques how to ensure its trustworthiness.

Traditional criteria Trustworthiness criteria Methods for meeting trustworthiness criteria
Internal validity Credibility Extended engagement in the field
Triangulation of data types
Peer debriefing
Member checks
External validity Transferability Detailed (thick) description of:
• Concepts and categories in the grounded theory
• Structures and processes related to processes revealed in the data
Reliability Dependability Purposive and theoretical sampling
Informants’ confidentiality protected
Inquiry audit of data collection, management, and analysis processes
Objectivity Confirmability Explicit separation of 1st order and 2nd order findings
Meticulous data management and recording:
Verbatim transcription of interviews
• Careful notes of observations
• Clear notes on theoretical and methodological decisions
• Accurate records of contacts and interviews

Source: Based on Lincoln and Guba (1985).

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