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Qualitative Research - Essay Example

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Qualitative Research

Properly selected and carefully employed research methods are a critically important part of any type of study either a survey or analysis of existing quantitative data. Correctly (from methodological perspective) received and interpreted data would provide a researcher with a variety of information and findings concerning different aspects of problem researched.
The abovementioned makes the question of methods effectiveness and appropriateness to each certain case extremely important. This project will examine appropriateness and effectiveness of qualitative research methods in organisational studies as well as provide overview of the specific characteristics and methods of qualitative research.
Historically, quantitative approaches and methodologies have been the first and foremost choice in the area of professional organizational and management research. The quantitative bias can probably be explained by the origins of modern organizational science which relies heavily on the natural sciences such as mathematics, economics, and sociology. Quantifiability and precision have traditionally been among the most essential features of these sciences and quantitative paradigm was undoubtedly the best choice to maintain and reinforce them (Patton and Appelbaum, 2003: 60).
The primary task of a qualitative study is to provide the researcher with data that relates to a specific context or setting, for example, explaining participants' perception of an organisation, understand participants' understanding of various phenomena, reveal their experiences, motivations, etc. At the same time, extrapolation of the qualitative study results to other similar situations and contexts is also an important aspect of qualitative research (Hoepfl, 1997).
There are various definition of qualitative research found in the literature. Strauss and Corbin (1990) define qualitative research as "any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification" (p. 17). Denzin and Lincoln (1998) describe qualitative research as "...multi-method in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them' (Denzin and Lincoln 1998: 3). Cassel and Symon (1994) claim that the most characteristic feature of qualitative research is "...a focus on interpretation rather than quantification, an emphasis on subjectivity rather than objectivity" (p.7). These three definitions identify the basic distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research and highlight the key features of qualitative methodology mentioned above. It shall be noted though that quantitative and qualitative research shall not be perceived as absolutely antagonistic to each other: "qualitative research usually does use some form of quantification, but statistical forms of analysis are not seen as central" (Mason 1996: 4).
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Modern organisational theory and applied science demonstrate increasing sophistication of research methods and demands to the research process itself. This tendency is fully in line with the sophistication turn observed in the majority of research fields. Thus according to different sources, almost 90% of modern surveys in social, natural and applied sciences utilize different kinds of research methods and further computerized procession of data (Bishop, 2005).
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