Research is normally categorized into two main types: qualitative or quantitative. Generally, literature reviews for quantitative research are usually conducted at the beginning of the process. However, qualitative research is an iterative process and frequently requires reviewing literature multiple times during that process.
So the primary question you should ask yourself before committing your time and energy to the review or reviews is “How should I conduct my research in order to answer my questions?” The list below can help you determine whether to use quantitative, qualitative, or perhaps a combination of both methods (sometimes referred to as “mixed method”) to answer these questions:
|Purpose||To understand and interpret social interactions||To test hypotheses, look at cause and effect, and make predictions|
|Group studied||Smaller, not randomly selected||Larger and randomly selected|
|Variables||Studies the whole, not variables||Specific variables studied|
|Type of data collected||Words, images, or objects||Numbers and statistics|
|Forms of data collected||Can include open-ended responses, interviews, participant observations, field notes, and reflections||Data based on precise measurements using structured and validated data-collection instruments|
|Type of data analysis||Identifies patterns, features, themes||Identifies statistical relationships|
|Role of the researcher||Researcher is part of the process – tends to become subjectively immersed in the topic||Research is separate and tends to remain objectively separated from the topic|
|Scientific method||Interpretive:Exploratory or bottom-up||Measurable:Confirmatory or top-down|
|View of human behavior||Dynamic, situational , social, personal||Regular and predictable|
|Most common research objectives||Develops theory: Explores, defines, or develops an approach to the problem. Goes deeper into issues of interest, explores nuances||Tests theory:Describes, explains, predicts|
|Focus||Complex and broad||Concise and narrow|
|Research environment||Studies behavior in a natural environment||Studies behavior under controlled environment|
|Final report||Report rich narrative with individual interpretation. Basic element of analysis is words and/or ideas.||Report statistical analysis. Basic element of analysis is numbers.|
References and links
Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.