Using Both, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Promotes Effectiveness
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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008
by Cheryl D. Smith
Qualitative and quantitative methods are used by researchers to collect data in social science. Qualitative methods include the researcher's experience through techniques such as focus groups, case studies, interviews and personal observations. On the other hand, quantitative methods include hard facts illustrated in surveys and polls. For purposes of this article, I attempted to choose one method over the other and justify my preference. Initially, I chose qualitative research because I enjoy the interaction with the subject under study. In order to make an educated and accurate choice, however, I feel it is necessary to understand why each one is used by practitioners in the first place. Before picking a method and taking sides, I identified the pros and cons of both research methods.
On the other hand, qualitative research has more disadvantages than quantitative. Because it is uncontrolled and subjective, findings cannot be measured by validity or reliability tests. Unlike quantitative, it also does not allow us to predict or generalize a population beyond what is found in observation.
The main purpose, and therefore, advantage of qualitative research is to provide a richer deeper understanding of a problem or question being observed. Because it is subjective due to the researchers experience through interaction with individuals, it provides different ways of looking at the same problem. Without this understanding, researchers can only answer the question of how and not why.
Therefore, I choose triangulation - the method of using both to collect and analyze data. Public relations practitioners aim to answer both how and why systematically. In order to plan and execute an effective campaign, they must be able to identify the issue with qualitative research using methods like surveys. Yet, it is equally important to understand the population. By using interviews and focus groups, practitioners are able to identify why the problem exists and how to reach different publics in a society filled with unlimited media clutter and noise.
For example, an awareness campaign informing USF students of the consequences of college drinking might use poster displays on campus, brochures and the Oracle to promote its messages. Quantitative methods like surveys could be conducted to find out how many students actually engage in drinking, while qualitative methods like focus groups would find out why students choose to or not to drink.
In conclusion, using both research methods ensure a greater understanding of a population resulting in a better campaign. Arguments supporting both methods and their importance were given to prove it is imperative to conduct as much research as possible to create a systematic and effective program.
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