Other concerns about the applicability of quantitative methodologies to in-dept examination of complex social phenomena include taking the collected data out of the real-world setting, poor representativeness and generalisation of data, exclusion of discovery from the realm of scientific inquiry, etc.
The institutional structure of business and management research has also reacted to the criticism of the positivist paradigm. Increasing numbers of qualitative studies published domestically and internationally have challenged the traditional view of qualitative research paradigm as the inferior to the more rigorous and reliable quantitative methodology. The aim of this paper is to identify the major research designs and techniques associated with each methodology and to provide explanation on the views about the nature of knowledge (epistemology) and the nature of reality (ontology) underlying these perspectives.
There are various classifications of methods used in the area of professional research, but the most common classification splits the methods into two large groups, namely quantitative and qualitative research methods.
Quantitative methodology employs methods historically applied in the natural (physical) sciences. The primary task of quantitative research is to ensure validity and reliability of results (Dingwall et al, 1998). Examples of quantitative methods widely used in the social sciences and business and management research are survey methods, formal methods (e.g. econometrics), laboratory experiments and several numerical methods (e.g. mathematical modelling) (Myers, 1997).
Quantitative research implies standardized questionnaires and methods of data analysis, specific position of the researcher whom is considered external to the research, replicability of the results regardless of the context, etc (Wainer and Braun, 1998). While reliability and validity are the most often cited strengths of the quantitative methodology, poor applicability of this methodology to exploration of a phenomenon, which is difficult or impossible to quantify, is considered a serious weakness. The main drawback that limits applicability of quantitative methods is the so-called 'decontextualization': models constructed on the basis of data obtained through quantitative methods do not take into account certain variables that act in the real world context (Patton, 1987).
Qualitative methodology utilizes a naturalistic approach seeking to understand phenomena in a specific context, such as "real world setting [where] the researcher does not attempt to manipulate the phenomenon of interest" (Patton, 2002: 39). The broad definition of qualitative research is "any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification" (Strauss and Corbin, 1990: 17). Qualitative research reveals findings observed in the real world context where the phenomena being studied unfold naturally (Patton, 2002).
The motivation underlying qualitative research is the researchers desire to understand the social and cultural phenomena within the real-world setting. Qualitative methods are designed to