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Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research is a data collection method where an investigator uses the participants’ views, opinions, and views to understand a phenomenon or answer research questions. Qualitative research is mainly used in social science and arts, unlike quantitative research, which is scientific. This assignment explores various elements of qualitative research. Question one navigates various epistemological assumptions that guide a qualitative investigation, while question two navigates paths that could be applied to evaluate qualitative research. In question three, a distinction will be made between hermeneutic and scientific approaches in the qualitative investigation. Further, the question will explore the key criticisms of hermeneutics (postmodernism) on the qualitative scientific approach and its implications. Finally, two articles will be analyzed in conformity with the postmodern approach in psychology.

Analysis of the fundamental epistemological assumptions of qualitative research

Epistemology in research is the theory of knowledge that deals with how information is gathered and from which sources this information is obtained. Epistemology is a concept of philosophical assumption that influences qualitative and quantitative data collection methodologies. In the qualitative approach, the epistemological approach insists that the investigator should not invent the respondents’ views but should only attribute the view of the participants in relation to the world they hold for a clear understanding of the motives, reasons, and actions taken by the respondents.

Consequently, a key epistemological assumption is that qualitative research provides a wealth of information in the participants’ natural environment, void of manipulation but aimed at producing organic results. A second assumption holds that the information gathered using the qualitative approach is used to increase the background knowledge of the investigators. In contrast, such data would be difficult to collect through the quantitative approach. Finally, the subjective approach is another key assumption of a qualitative approach which argues that the approach is based on the participants’ views, which are obtained through open questions. This assumption is founded on the fact that the qualitative approach is focused on obtaining the investigator’s views, opinions, and attitudes, which may be obtained through qualitative questionnaires, observations, interviews, or focus group discussions. 

Social constructivism is another epistemological assumption of a qualitative investigation. This assumption attempts to explain the elements of our world and work through the development of multiple meanings and outlooks on the complexity of viewpoints. Consequently, the researchers ask broad general open-ended questions as the principle interaction process. Finally, the interpretivist nature of qualitative research is another basic epistemological assumption that the investigator must focus on the cultural and historical settings of the participants. For instance, attitudes and views about a research topic or a phenomenon are constructed through culture; thus, understanding their culture will help the investigator interpret their feedback and responses- hence removing observer bias or misconception.

The epistemology of qualitative research is also founded on the postmodernist perspectives of assumptions. This assumption is founded on the realization that the information people have today about a phenomenon differs from the information they had 10 or 20 years back. For instance, gender or sexuality views have changed in the postmodern era. Other considerations in postmodernism include race, social group, hierarchy, power and control, and religious affiliations. In general, the benefit of epistemological assumptions in a qualitative study is that they help examine the prevailing philosophical views from the epistemological aspect, thus reducing misconceptions or biases associated with cultural or environmental differences.

The assessment of quality in qualitative research

The quality of research is very important as it determines the credibility and accuracy of the data collected. Consequently, it is vital to measure the value of the methodology applied in data collection. In the qualitative approach, there are various assessment procedures applied. Triangulation is one assessment approach the investigator finds themes and compares the collected data using another data source. Triangulation involves data validation through cross-verifying two or more sources to determine whether the results are consistent. In particular, triangulation is preferred when different qualitative approaches are. For instance, it is critical to assess whether research using a qualitative questionnaire or focus group discussion will produce consistent results.

Assessment of qualitative research may also be done using CASP (Critical Appraisal Skills Programme) checklists which have three sections: Section A (are the results valid), Section B (what are results), and Section C (how will the results? Help the local people). For instance, using the CASP analysis tool, the qualitative data will be evaluated to determine if the data collected and analyzed will be beneficial to the local community or the religion at large. Furthermore, the study’s relevance needs to be evaluated- the results must be relevant to the targeted people. For instance, the findings of a qualitative investigation on how to run a Muslim bank in a Christian-dominated community may not be relevant to this population.

The assessment of the environment will also determine the quality of qualitative data. A key ethical consideration during data collection is to provide an environment free of intimidation or coercion. Accordingly, by measuring the setting in which data was assembled, the investigator will get the value of the data gathered. For instance, was the interview collected in a safe environment, or was the focus group discussion done in a conducive environment? By answering these questions, the investigator will assess the quality of the information obtained.

Every research is based on a given theoretical or conceptual framework. A theoretical framework explores the key models or theories associated with the topic. On the other hand, a conceptual framework connects various elements of research, such as variables, research questions, research design, and the theoretical framework. Consequently, high-quality research can be evaluated based on the applicability of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks for reporting the findings. A high-quality qualitative investigation is one whose selected framework is aligned with the selected theories. In assessing the applicability of the conceptual framework, the investigator will ask the following questions: Are the selected theories relevant to the research topic? Will the selected variables, hypotheses, or research questions address the research problem?

Personal ideas about “science” are challenged in a postmodern hermeneutic frame.

Hermeneutics is an approach to interpretation founded on the observation of philosophical texts, literature, and religious texts. Hermeneutics is an example of postmodern ideology, a Western philosophy characterized by criticism, objectivity, and subjectivism. Postmodernism is based on the hermeneutics frame since both are founded on the ideology of asserting and maintaining economic and political power—furthermore, the two attacks scientific ideas, including free knowledge, objectivity, and neutrality. Unlike science, postmodernism holds that objectivity and value neutrality is dependent. Therefore, postmodernism believes that knowledge can only be obtained when its process is dissociated from the social condition. The following summary represents the challenge of science in a postmodern, hermeneutic frame:

  • Science cannot claim universal application in research since it cannot produce true assertions of objectives of physical reality.
  • The hermeneutic frame also asserts that science is not a value-free inquiry of truth; it cannot be distanced from cultural restrictions. Consequently, postmodernists believe moral or ideological impulses inspire that science.
  • Also, postmodernists and hermeneutics perceive science as an evidence-based discipline that includes logic and reasoning as the basic enlightenment rationality. 
  • Some postmodernists and hermeneutics attribute technology and science to mass-murder devices such as biological weapons and nuclear bombs.
  • Discrediting science, postmodernists, and hermeneutics point to the 20th century-when scientific advancements that were used to destroy and oppress others.
  • Consequently, postmodernists and hermeneutics do not perceive the opportunities created by science but the harms caused by scientific advancement.

Based on the above assumptions, the perception of science may have some implications for the practice of qualitative inquiry. A key implication is the lack of objectivity- postmodernists believe science cannot produce true assertions of objectives of physical reality. Furthermore, because qualitative research is based on the views and opinions of the respondents, then postmodernists argue that the science of logic and reasoning cannot be applied in qualitative research but rather in quantitative investigations.

Another implication of science in qualitative research is the lack of objectivity in the questions posed to the participants. For instance, it is scientifically impossible to tell whether a qualitative question is good or bad since they are all subjective. Moreover, the fact that the questions are open-ended makes it difficult to evaluate the accuracy of the responses, making it difficult to test the hypotheses.

Article Analysis

Article One 

The first article is Hermeneutic Realism: Toward a Truly Meaningful Psychology. The article is about the contribution of hermeneutic realism to psychology (Slife & Christensen, 2013). The article begins by explaining the differences between mainstream psychology and its application in research. Besides, the authors have differentiated between the terms realism and hermeneutic. The hermeneutic of psychology is defined as the subject matter of behavior understood in the context rather than the conventional notion. On the other, realism is the psychological notion based on the understanding that knowledge does not devolve into subjectivism or realism (Slife & Christensen, 2013). However, the article opines that hermeneutic realism should not be considered a replacement for psychology; it is a supplement as it helps the investigator understand the participants’ views, opinions, and attitudes about a phenomenon.

Therefore, the article’s perception of realism and psychology is that the discipline belongs to the field of art and not science. While differing from the scientific views of research, this article differentiates meaning and objects. The authors opine that the subject matter of psychology in its object-oriented form differs from the meaning-oriented form. This argument is founded on the assumption that hermeneutic realism can only be explained in the context of what can be seen (objectivism). In light of this argument, the article confirms the postmodernism approach in psychology (Slife & Christensen, 2013). Quantitative psychologists are researchers who apply qualitative approaches in exploring research topics that deal with human performance, language retention, and child development. For instance, when collecting information about human health, a quantitative psychologist is interested in the respondents’ views, unlike the scientific approach, where the investigators will be interested in the ‘how many’ aspect of the investigation.

This article supports the objective nature of a qualitative investigation in many aspects. First, the authors acknowledge that hermeneutic psychology is interpretive (Slife & Christensen, 2013). However, this interpretation is not subjective like the scientific approach but on a meaning-oriented approach. In this way, the authors provide an alternative worldview that helps the readers understand psychological views in line with the respondents’ views. Second, the article contends that the qualitative nature of psychology is realistic because humans are immersed in ideas and views they hope to describe during an investigation, unlike the scientific view that perceives humans as objects whose views can be interpreted using a mathematical approach. 

Third, the authors disagree with the argument that psychology is a science; hence its study can only exist through an objective approach (object-based). The authors claim that such scientific argument is misguided and can only lead to the denial of some of the critical aspects of human experience. For instance, using an object-based approach in psychology will affect relationships, changeability, possibility, and values, thus creating bias and misconceptions. However, when hermeneutic realism is applied in psychology, humans are not seen as objects but as subjects with feelings, views, and ideas. Therefore, hermeneutic realism is presented as an alternative to the object-based approach in psychology.

Article Two

The second article is The Promises of Qualitative Inquiry by (Gergen et al., 2015). This article is also based on the analysis of the qualitative approach to data collection and analysis. The article also discredits the scientific approach to the qualitative approach, just like the first article. This article supports the postmodern hermeneutic frame, which the authors call a qualitative movement (Gergen et al., 2015). The authors define the movement as a methodological campaign that draws its data collection and analysis approach from a meaning-oriented approach and not a scientific approach (Gergen et al., 2015). The movement is critical to the traditional scientific approach that generalizes human ideas. Accordingly, the movement is critical of the generalization of psychological views. Consequently, the article agrees with the first article that psychology is not a scientific subject but a meaning-oriented subject matter.

The movement is said to promise a qualitative approach in that it gives hope for the enrichment of the discipline and optimism on how the discipline will contribute to human development (Gergen et al., 2015). For instance, it is difficult to separate psychology and human development or issues such as human health. The article argues that this analysis should be based on meaning-oriented rather than a generalization of the findings. Therefore, qualitative inquiry promises to enrich studies that focus on human experiences. Besides, the promise of qualitative inquiry will be a breakthrough in the contribution of psychology to society.

Conclusion

This paper has explored the qualitative approach in research and its application in social science (psychology). The assignment defines qualitative research as a method of data collection where an investigator uses the participants’ views, opinions, and views. Objectivity and the use of respondents’ views and opinions are the main epistemological assumptions of a qualitative investigation. For qualitative assessment, the paper has proposed personal-based judgment and using Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklists. Finally, two articles that support postmodernism criticism of the scientific approach to the qualitative approach have been analyzed. 

References

Gergen, K. J., Josselson, R., & Freeman, M. (2015). The promises of qualitative inquiry. American Psychologist, 70(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038597 

Slife, B. D., & Christensen, T. R. (2013). Hermeneutic Realism: Toward a Truly Meaningful Psychology. Review of General Psychology, 17(2), 230–236. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032940