Epistemological And Ontological Research

Qualitative and quantitative researches are often presented as two fundamentally different paradigms through which we study the social world. These paradigms act as lightning conductors to which sets of epistemological assumptions, theoretical approaches and methods are attracted. Each is seen to be incompatible with the other. These paradigmatic claims have a tendency to resurface from time to time, manifesting themselves in the effects of different cultural traditions upon intellectual styles of research (Brannen, 1992). This essay seeks to outline or rather discuss on the key five papers that talk about the separation of the two that qualitative and quantitative.

Quantitative research

Best services for writing your paper according to Trustpilot

Premium Partner
From $18.00 per page
4,8 / 5
Writers Experience
Recommended Service
From $13.90 per page
4,6 / 5
Writers Experience
From $20.00 per page
4,5 / 5
Writers Experience
* All Partners were chosen among 50+ writing services by our Customer Satisfaction Team

Quantitative research is a type of educational research in which the researcher decides what to study: ask specific narrow questions, collects numeric data for participants analysing this number using statistics and conducts the injury in the unbiased, objective manner. Some qualitative researchers see quantitative research as merely as the manipulation of numbers. They believe that the word is too complex to be measurable variables that can then be recorded as numbers and statically manipulated. Quantitative research method here the researchers identify variables that can be observed and measured. These variables can be recorded as numbers and statistics can be used to determine relationship among and between variables. In quantitative, research the procedure used to collect the data are clearly defined and described prior to the actual data collection (Mckenzie and Cottrell 2001:7).

Qualitative research

According to Biber and Leavy (2011:4) qualitative research is a unique grounding the position from which to conduct research that fosters particular ways of asking and particular ways of thinking through problems. The questions asked in this type of research usually begins with words like who, why or what. Qualitative researchers are often after meaning. The social meaning people attribute in their experiences, circumstances and institutions as well the meanings people embed into texts and other objects are the focus of qualitative research. Therefore at the heart of their work, qualitative researchers try to extract meaning from their data. The focus of the research is generally on words and texts as opposed to numbers ( as in the case of quantitative research.

Ontological assumptions of quantitative research

According to Grix (2001:26) ontology is the image of social reality upon which a theory is based either the claims and assumptions that are made about what it looks like, what units make it up and how these units interact with each other. The quantitative paradigm is based on positivism. Science is characterised by empirical indicators which represent the truth. The ontological assumption of the quantitative paradigm is that there is only one truth, an objective reality that exists independent of human perception. Niles (2011:154) states that the philosophy of quantitative research is based on ontological assumption of relatively stable reality. Reality can be separated from the perceiver and observable knowledge can be defined. Knowledge is generated through objective measurement variables. From quantitative ontological perspective the researcher is objectively detached from the research participants, exercising careful controls so as to not bias the results in any way.

Epistemological assumption of quantitative research

Our view of the nature of reality affects our beliefs about the nature of knowledge. Epistemology addresses the second paradigmatic questions, ‘how do we know what we know? What is the relationship between the knower and what is known. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that with the origins nature and limits of human knowledge which focuses on the relationship between the knower and the known. Epistemology also deals with ways of knowing and the researchers belief system about the nature of knowledge such as

beliefs about the certainty, structure, complexity, and sources of knowledge. It is important to recognise that every researcher brings some set of epistemological assumptions into the research process even though they are not aware of them and that these assumptions influence how they understand and interpret their data (Klenke 2008:16).

Epistemological and ontological assumptions of qualitative research

Du Plooy states that one of the ontological assumption in qualitative research is that reality is subjective. He further states that insights into communication, as part of the social world, can be derived from the subjects’ perspective. As an epistemological assumption he states that reality can be described in terms of meanings that people attach to communication experiences. Multiple sources of knowledge exist and can be used to explore, interpret and understand a subjective world (Du Plooy 2001).

Argument of Brannen

The case for separate paradigms is that qualitative and quantitative researchers hold different epistemological assumptions, belong to different research cultures and have different researcher biographies that work against convergence (Brannen, 1992). This simply means that the two that qualitative and quantitative cannot be combined according to Brannen’s view because of their epistemological assumptions. Indeed qualitative researchers are embracing even greater reflexivity, for example taking account of the influence of the researcher in the research encounter, finding new ways of relating the voices of marginal groups to academic knowledge and researcher.

According to Branneen (1992:174) states that the case for greater pressure to work qualitatively and quantitatively, it is also possible to argue that the continuing existence of the separate paradigms approach is a healthy sign that such matters are still a subject for debate. Having reviewed many journal articles on methodology in recent years, I would suggest that there is strong support for working both qualitatively and quantitatively. In the current trend towards evidence-based practice and the systematic review of social science research, research that combines qualitative and quantitative methods needs particular attention. The task for reviewers is a hard one if the published methodological evidence for either approach is wanting. This simply means that Brannen see he need of combining the two methods to make valid research.

Thus we cannot unproblematic ally assume that data from different methods will corroborate one another as is implied in the strategy of triangulation-that is where the choice of methods is intended to investigate a single social phenomenon from different vantage points (Denzin, 1970). Data collected from different methods cannot be simply added together to produce a unitary or rounded reality. When we combine methods, there are a number of possible outcomes; corroboration of results is only one of at least four possibilities (Morgan, 1998, cited in Bryman, 2001; Hammersley, 1996):

a-? Corroboration: The ‘same results’ are derived from both qualitative and quantitative methods.

a-? Elaboration: The qualitative data analysis exemplifies how the quantitative findings apply in particular cases.

a-? Complementarity: The qualitative and quantitative results differ but together they generate insights.

a-? Contradiction: Where qualitative data and quantitative findings conflict.

This simply means that as the two methods differ in terms of the way to gather information it will be not easy to combine the two when conduction a research the results will not be the same because the qualitative research is the one that deals with words, texts etc and that differ from quantitative as it deals with numbers and statistics to conduct a research so Morgan states the fact that they cannot be combined together because they will give us many outcomes.

Firestone (1986)

According to (Jick, 1979), qualitative and quantitative studies provide different kinds of information. When focused on the same issue, qualitative and quantitative studies can triangulate-that is, use different methods to assess the robustness or stability of findings.

An examination of the rhetorical elements of those studies indicates that they use quite different strategies to persuade the reader of the validity of the analysis and that they project different assumptions about organizational phenomena. An important by-product of these differences is that they provide complementary information to the reader (Firestone 1986). So this simply means the two methods differ in terms of expression of their ideas the way they convey information as quantitative research uses statistics and qualitative research uses words so they two cannot work together because of their differences in expressing the information.

Wilson (1986)

The radical qualitative position holds that quantitative that quantitative methods impose a structure and from inherently alien to the texture of social life, which can be grasped only in its complex detail and wholeness. Statistics might be useful to organise superficial for wanted for administrative purpose of socials, but they reveal nothing significant about the basic nature of social life (Wilson 1986:25). This means qualitative and quantitative research should be combined together in order for the research to be successful. On this account the notion of quantitative methods is at the best mischievous for leads and mindless empiricism that in its very claims objectivity is fundamentally misleading about the nature of social life.

According to Wilson (1986:26) the question of qualitative and quantitative methods have been confounded with polemics over scientific versus historicism and the contemporary tendency to identify objectivity and national empirical inquiry with what are taken to be methods of natural science. This social researchers in practise tend to take for granted the interdependence of quantitative and qualitative methods in the course of the actual research. It is evident that ideas about appropriate methods are interconnected with conceptions of the nature of the society and what can be said about social phenomena. So it clear as it is stated above that the two methods cannot be treated separately they should be combined because they can be interconnected. The radical quantitative view focuses entirely on the experienced objectively of social structure and the transparency of displays while treating context dependency meaning as merely a technical sane to be dealt with in specific research situation but without theoretical or methodological importance. This assumption is the logical underpinning of the view that natural science is the appropriate intellectual model for social science and it paves the way for presumption that quantitative methods are inherently superior to qualitative ones ( Wilson 1986:30). Wilson states the fact that as natural sciences work hand in hand with social sciences that necessitates the point that the two namely quantitative and qualitative research should be combined because theory goes with practise According to Wilson (1986:40) it follows that qualitative and quantitative are complementary rather than competitive methods. This simply means they match they can work together, they are compatible and supportive that means they should not be separated by anytime. Wilson (1986:40) further states that each supplies a kind of information that is not only different from the other but also essential for interpreting the other. Qualitative studies reveal patterns of regulation in situated actions and give essential distributive information, while qualitative investigation shed light on the concrete social situated action are produced.

In short the interpretation of quantitative data is informed by analysis’s qualitative understanding of specific social phenomena under study, just as interpretation of qualitative data is informed by the investigators knowledge of regular patterns of which the particular events being examined are parts. One can, of course lose sight of the way interpretations of qualitative data depend on qualitative understanding and vice versa and present ones findings as though they were arrived by uncontaminated use of single approach, but this kind of self deception is either helpful or necessary (Wilson 1986:40).

Howe (1992)

Howe (1992) states that the quantitative-qualitative debate has been unfolding for several decades now and has evolved from one about the incompatibility of quantitative and qualitative techniques and procedures to one about the incompatibility of the more fundamental epistemological assumptions of quantitative and qualitative (positivist and interpretivist) “paradigms. Over approximately the last decade, the terms “quantitative” and “qualitative” have come to be used to make at least two different contrasts: literal and derivative. The literal contrast has to do with data collection, research design, and analysis, with what Smith and Heshusius (1986) refer to as “techniques and procedures”; the derivative contrast has to do with broader epistemological assumptions, with “epistemological paradigms.” Given my understanding of the evolution of the debate, these two ways of contrasting quantitative and qualitative research have been separated (e.g., Guba 1987; Guba and Lincoln 1989; Lincoln and Guba 1985; Reichardt and Cook 1979; Smith and Heshusius 1986), such that it is now viewed as perfectly coherent to combine quantitative and qualitative “techniques and procedures.”

Howe argues that techniques and procedures are compatible for the two methods namely quantitative and qualitative methods and he also states the fact that the two methods differ with their epistemological assumptions

McNabb (2013)

There are scholars like McNabb who argue against the issue of combining the two methods when doing a research and his point is quantitative and qualitative research cannot work together because of their differences they have plenty of difference those differences necessitates them to be treated incompatible.

According to McNabb (2013:302) the difference between the two is what is referred to as the subjective -or objective dichotomy. Qualitative researchers explicitly and overfly apply their own interpretations of what they hear and see, often they are active participants in the phenomenon under study. In the quantitative research the researcher is expected to function as an unbiased, unobtrusive observer, reporting only what can be measured. So McNabb sees this as the reason why the two methodologies cannot be combined together.

McNabb (2013:302) sates that qualitative approach tend to approach the research process with a willingness to be flexible and to where the data lead them. The difference now with quantitative research is that it qualitative researchers approach a approach a topic with a few or no preconceived assumption, conclusions are expected to appear of the data as they are collected and studied. Even though quantitative research tends to be by strict set of rules and formal processes. Typically, specific hypothesis are established prior to the data gathering and tested during the analysis. Variables are identified and explicitly defined beforehand. Searching for cause and effect relationship between defined variables that can be measured is a hallmark of quantitative research studies.

The reason why the two methodologies should be treated incompatible is because of their differences, it is said that quantitative and qualitative methods differ in terms of the aim study that is why they are always separated. McNabb (2013:302) stipulates the fact that qualitative research seek understanding of social interaction and processes in organisation, whereas quantitative studies are more concerned with predicting future events and behaviours. To make these predictions they often apply inferential statistical analyses to measurements taken from representative samples drawn the population of interest.

Another thing that makes two methodologies to be treated invalid it is because of their context of study. Qualitative research is usually concerned with a situation or event that takes place within a single organisational texts. A major goal of much quantitative research is to apply the study results to other situation and hence more often for other generation. Another way that these approaches differ is the emphasis that qualitative researchers assign to the research process. The way the participants interact with, and react to the researcher during the qualitative study is as much interest as the original phenomenon of interest. Quantitative researcher tends to take great pains to avoid introducing extraneous influences into the study and seek to isolate from process as much as possible by controlling for process efforts (McNabb 2013:303). It is clear that from the view or perspective of McNabb the two methodologies should not be mixed because they have lot of differences and by having those differences they cannot be treated compatible.

Sale, Lohfeld and Brazil (2002)

Having discussed some of the basic philosophical assumptions of the two paradigms, we are better able to address the arguments given for combining quantitative and qualitative methods in a single study. There are several viewpoints as to why qualitative and quantitative methods can be combined. First, the two approaches can be combined because they share the goal of understanding the world in which we live (Haase and Myers, 1988). King et al. (1994) claim that both qualitative and quantitative researches are unified logic, and that the same rules of inference apply to both.

Second, the two paradigms are thought to be compatible because they share the tenets of theory-leadenness of facts, fallibility of knowledge, in determination of theory by fact, and a value-laden din quiry process they are also united by a shared commitment to understanding and improving the human condition, a common goal of disseminating knowledge for practical use, and a shared commitment for rigor, conscientiousness and critique in the research process ( Reichardta and Rallis, 1994). In fact, Casebeer and Verhoef (1997) argue we should view qualitative and quantitative methods as part of a continuum of research with specific techniques selected based on the research objective. Third, as noted by Clarke and Yaros (1988), combining research methods is useful in some areas of research, such as nursing, because the complexity of phenomena required data from a large number of perspectives similarly, some researchers have argued that the complexities of most public health problems( Baum, 1995) or social interventions such as health education and health promotion programs ( Steckleret ai., I 992), require the use of a broad spectrum of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Fourth, others claim that researchers should not be preoccupied with the quantitative-qualitative bate because it will not be resolved in the near future, and that epistemonologic paulrity does not get researched one (Miies and Huberman, r 984). It is clear that many scholars want or support the idea of mixing the two methodologies.

Fundamentally to this viewpoint is that qualitative and quantitative researcher so not, in fact, studies the same phenomena. We propose a solution to mixed-methods research and the quantitative qualitative debate. Qualitative and quantitative research methods have grown out

of, and still represent, different paradigms. However, the fact that the approaches are incommensurate does not mean that multiple methods cannot be combined in a single study if it is done for complementary purposes. Each method studies different phenomena. The distinction of phenomena in mixed-methods research is crucial and can be clarified by labelling the phenomenon examined by each method (Sale 2002).

From the above discussion it is clear that some scholars who are against the separation of the two methods and there are some like McNabb who saw the differences between the two methods and saw that as a reason why they should separated.


Baum,F.(1995). Researching public health: Behind the qualitative-quantitative methodological debate. Social Science and Medicine 40: 459*468.

Brannen, J. (1992). Mixing methods: Qualitative and quantitative research. London: Avebury

Bibber, N.H. and Leavy,P. (2011). The Practice of Qualitative research, 2nd edition, USA, SAGE publications.

Casebeer, A. L. & Verhoef, M. J. (1997). Combining qualitative and quantitative research methods: Considering the possibilities for enhancing the study of chronic diseases. Diseases in Canada I8: 130-l-l-5.

Clarke, P. N. & Yaros, P S. (1988). Research blenders: Commentary and response. Nursing Science Quarterly l:147-149.

Denzin, N. (1970). The research act in sociology. London: Butterworth

Du Plooy, G. M. (2001). Communication Research: Techniques, Methods and Applications, 2nd Edition. Kenwyn: Juta.

Firestone (1987). Meaning in method: The rhetoric of quantitative and qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 16(7).

Grix, J. 2001.Demistifying Postgraduate Research from MA to PHD, UK, University of Birimingham

Howe, K. (1992). Getting over the quantitative-qualitative debate. American Journal of Education, 100(2).

Jick, T.D. (1979). Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods: Triangulation in action. Administrative Science Quarterly.

Klenke, K, 2008. Qualitative research in the study of leadership, United Kingdom, Emerald Group Publishing

Mckenzie, J.F and Cottrell, R.R. 201. Health Promotion & Education Research Methods, Using the fifth chapter thesis model, United Sates of America. Jones and Barlett Publishers.

McNabb, D.E, 2013. Research methods in Public Administration and Non Profit management, Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 3rd edition, United Kingdom, Armonk

Morgan, D. L. (1998). Practical strategies for combining qualitative and quantitative methods: Applications for health research. Qualitative Health Research, 8, 362-376.

Miles, M. & Huberman, A. (1984). Drawing valid meaning from qualitative data: Toward a shared craft. Educational Researcher l3: 20-30.

Reichardt, C. S. & Rallis,S . F. (1994) .Qualitative and quantitative inquiries are not incompatible: A call for a new partnership. New Directions for Program Evaluation 6l: 85-9i.

Sale, J., Lohfeld, L. And Brazil, K. (2002). Revisiting the quantitative-qualitative debate: Implications for mixed-methods research. Quality & Quantity, 36(1).

StecklerA, Mcleroc y, K. R., Goodman R, . M., Bird, S. T. & McCormick L, . (1992) Toward integrating qualitative and quantitative methods: An introduction Health Education Quarterly),1 9:I -8.

Wilson, T.P. 1986. Qualitative versus Quantitative Methods in social research Bulleting de mthodologique Sociologque, SAGE

You Might Also Like

I'm Alejandro!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out