Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Community

Abstract

This paper is about community development, and how different types of researches may be carried out for the development of communities. The focus is on the qualitative and quantitative methods of conducting research studies, and how qualitative methods prove to be beneficial for improvement of communities.

Research and its Purpose

In conducting research, various methods can be employed for result attainment. These methods include either qualitative methods, or quantitative methods. We will assess which of these methods will be more suitable for carrying out community development, and also try to analyze if both can be executed. Each subject has its own methodologies of research conduction, related to the prerequisites of the research.

Community Development

Communities are the dwellings around us, and what we make of them and its people. Large numbers of people living together, sharing similar values and norms, form communities. Community development involves the improving of the community, through the various contributors in their own capacities. The people themselves are the foremost contributors, but institutions may also be included. Development is an ongoing process, and is expected to take its form through the strategies that are devised for the upbringing of dwellers. The present commodities and available resources are improved and made superior, for achieving the goal of better living. Communities are developed to enable people to make the most of what they have, and improvise for attainment of common goals set by all and sundry.

There are several ways by which people go about catering to the needs of members of the community, there is no set method for achieving this purpose either. Contributions and ideas are all made and given according to the requirements that are put forth. Developmental tasks may be executed gradually, taking into view the human and material resources that are available. What is of utmost importance for advancement in any field is the attitude of the people toward their lives. There should be a certain level of quest for improved living, and optimism, for plans to work out. Without desire for better facilities for the future generations, it will not be possible for any community to actually ‘develop’.

Types of Research

To conduct a research it is essential to look into the types of research that a person can carry out. Firstly the basic descriptive and inferential statistics and types of research need to be seen, as well as the relation amongst them, in order to make a choice between which option would be selected. The sequencing of the research report is of immense importance additionally, pertaining to how the literature review would be compiled. The differences between the qualitative and quantitative methods of research differ from one another according to the relation of the statistics of the research and the types of research (Ismail, M., 2005).

It is first important to know the relationships among variables before making a decision about the approach that is to be made for the research study. Such relationships may be two in number, i.e., either being with or without cause and effect. If it is a cause and effect relationship, experimental or quasi-experimental design for longitudinal observations would be suitable. On the other hand, if it is a non-cause and effect relationship, a plain descriptive research would be sufficient. This description would be simply about the relations between the variables (Ismail, M., 2005).

Quantitative Research

The types of quantitative research based on the cause and effect relationship include the pure experiment, the quasi-experiment, an ex-post-facto, and a time-series design.

  • Pure experiment – this helps to see the effect of an independent variable on a dependent variable. This is done by managing the variables to produce practically possible results.
  • Quasi-experiment – in a quasi-experiment, the subjects cannot be randomized in the control and experimental groups.
  • Ex-post-facto – this is a causal relation that is made, though it is not a strong one. It can be employed when there is an independent variable in the setting, not otherwise.
  • Time-series design – this is done by taking records of a series of defined durations when observations are taken before and after treatments. This is an example of the cause and effect relation, by indicating that if the performance recordings are high after treatment, the effect has well taken place.

If the research is the non cause and effect type, even then there are certain types of researches that can fit in, like:

  • Survey research – the survey research is best suited to cases in which a dependency among variables is not pertinent. Rather, if there exists a relationship between the variables, then there is a possibility of a descriptive survey in the study.
  • Co relational research – the correlations among variables is known to the person conducting the research from before. It is not cause and effect, but the relation between the variables already exists.
  • R&D type of research – this is the setting up of a prototype and then giving its justifications, and statements of its usefulness. At times experiments are carried out to show the effectiveness of the proposal.
  • Evaluation research – any event is evaluated using the above types of research and then the benefits are judged. Judgments are made by the researcher himself, which may question the point of it being a quantitative evaluation.

All of the above mentioned methods of carrying out researches are related to numbers and facts, and justifications. Whereas, qualitative research methods are more often classified as a ‘social reality’, involving aspects of studies that relate to the views and judgments of people, etcetera (Ismail, M., 2005).

According to Cook and Reichardt, 1979, quantitative research methods have the following characteristics, namely, they are more positive, deductive, confirmatory, particularistic, objective, have control over variables, are more factual, making them more outcome oriented.

On the other hand, Cook and Reichardt have classified the qualitative research methods to be fuller of meaning, subjective, holistic, more descriptive, and inductive.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research includes the process of going deep into things, exploring ideas with thorough meaning and looking for replies to new questions. All of these take place everywhere in our daily lives too. Thus it is apparent that being a researcher alone is not the criteria for carrying out qualitative research, in fact, it deals with analyses of situations, pictures and objects too. The probing into certain matters and finding out the ‘why’s’ of information are inclusive in qualitative research. On the contrary, quantitative research focuses more on ‘how’ a certain event took place. Qualitative research includes the attitudes, thinking, and diverse aspects of any area of study. It is an amalgam of how people think, what they say and understand from their conscious minds. It contains the psyche of individuals, and is carried out according to their desires. Qualitative research is researching phenomenal behavior, and also relates to the cultural norms, values, and forces (Ereaut, G., 2007). This is why it may be preferred over quantitative research, for the area of community development.

The accumulation and analysis of the unstructured information during the execution of a qualitative research may include the following common methods:

  • Observation – this is the collection of firsthand data by researching individuals. Whatever culture is being observed or looked into, the individual must participate and get in to find out facts, and study the environment personally (Trochim, W., 2006). This involves participant observation and direct observation. In the context of direct observation, the individual does not personally get into the situation, but just keeps a close look at certain selected samples, thus saving time and energy. In participant observation long time periods of months may be required for the individual to participate in the study and draw conclusions.
  • Interviews – by carrying out interviews, the direct perspectives of the participants of the project or study can be attained. This is a series of direct interactions with the individuals, asking questions at their own will (Frechtling, et al., 1997). The unstructured interview that are taken provide much benefit, in that the questions asked may also diverge a little from the topic, and there is no specific set method for interviewing, the atmosphere is more comfortable, and greater insights into matters can be obtained. The interviewer goes to ask the respondents questions without any predetermined plan, though this may cause some difficulty in analysis at the end. In-depth interviews help to gain more knowledge as compared to structured interviews.
  • Case study – case studies deal with detailed studies of any subject, they are thorough studies which gather the innermost details of matters. Additionally, they are expressive details of areas where the researcher is himself a part of the community or institution. Case studies can easily be carried out in communities by approaching individuals and cross-questioning them. In the real world, these case studies are more beneficial for research, as diverse explorations are made, giving rise to extensive data.
  • Focus groups – these groups consist of both interviewing and observatory aspects. However, the interviews and focus groups ought to be used according to the setting of the case, and is to be based upon the situation. What needs to be seen is the outcome on asking questions, in a group or individually. Whatever seems appropriate needs to be implemented.

The Research Method that suits Community Development Best

For developing a community, people of all kinds are dealt with. Their thoughts, views and attitudes are major concerns for the upbringing of the community thus a lot of interaction is needed. Since it is a subjective approach altogether, it is necessary for the research to be a qualitative one too, as no facts and figures are considered for developing communities. What is truly required is the correct mindset of people, and their determination to work for betterment.

Action research is concerned with problem identification, and for those problems to be solved, it is important to employ the method of qualitative research (Meyer, J., 2000). The process of development encompasses growth, and rearing, as well as all major concerns of life. There are numerous points that need to be covered up for the overall well-being of the community. Firstly the resources that are available to the community need to be identified.

All the things that come under consideration for improvement have to go through a brainstorming process (Bartle, P.). The leading agents or members of the community have to sit in a proper meeting and brainstorm to think of all the possibilities of development in the society in which they dwell. Alongside brainstorming, goes the process of decision-making. Decision-making is a series of making decisions for the well being of the community as a whole. The people themselves make the decisions, with a unified consensus, as to what will benefit their community. This decision is a collective decision, and whatever such decisions are made, are for the well-being of the entire community and not any specific individual. Whatever the type of meeting held for developing the community, the leadership should be good, to conduct affirmative sessions for the people. They need to gain insight into the tangible and real problems of the population, and decision-making should be made an easy process for the leads.

Qualitative research methods would be used for community development, depending on the reactions of the individuals, and these would include taking interviews from people, making case studies, as well as observations. These qualitative methods of research have to be employed if feedback or comments from the dwellers are to be taken. The quantitative methods of researching would prove useless because of little statistical information present in communities through which development or progress can be made. Quantitative methods can be used only for certain parts, where numerical information is required, like annual statistics regarding certain points.

Qualitative Research Design

There is a standardized design of carrying out qualitative research that we can follow. It consists of the following steps:

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Analysis
  • Discussion

This design is also known as IMRAD, and involves planning, controlling and evaluating a program (Thomson, R., 2008). The initiation of a qualitative research is usually done by the collection of data from certain subjects. After data is documented, the research can be assured of confidence, and is further carried out by defining the goals that are to be worked for, and thoroughly looking into the facilitation process.

While undertaking the qualitative research methods, it is essential to check the physical environment that is under study. The social structure in the community should be learnt, about how the groups of people interact with each other, and how well they can adjust in the environment. If differences exist, they need to be worked out for clarification. The non-verbal communication present within the groups of people is often documented as well, which assists in the coordination of members of the group, which constitute the community.

Since social research is a topic that is given much importance in the current day, therefore the debates about which research methods to apply also arise. There is much confusion about which of the ways research about a certain area of study can be carried out. The theories, methodologies, and concepts of the research are inter-related, and are praise-worthy, being a part of the qualitative aspects of life. In today’s world, qualitative approaches are more often being made due to the rising demand of the significance of people’s interactions (Cox, et al., 2007). Another reason why qualitative research is momentous is because its need is arising in the twenty-first century.

Current Research Techniques for Community Development

Emphasis is being laid on community developmental projects in the current years, in order to produce unity and overall betterment to the entire globe, through its various sectors. In community development, auditory and participatory research has become common, because of the increasing need of customer satisfaction and to be cost-effective.

Participative action research is employed to gather information from the people directly, concerning their personal experiences, and performing situational analyses.

Action research is carried out in a way in which the researchers alter the variables of the research according to the situation or problems encountered. These problems are viewed at a personal, organizational and institutional manner, involving substantial amount of monitoring of the participants.

Social auditing is another means of viewing the need satisfaction of individuals, by analyzing the amount of public facilities or services provided to the population, and their personal satisfaction due to the services that are present. This is done by conducting surveys and interviews, which is a qualitative approach of research.

Social accounting is an evaluation of the services provided by the private companies to the general public. It is another qualitative method of researching with studying of companies and interviewing people to probe about their need fulfillment in context to these institutions.

The participation method of researching is on the rise, with people being expected to realize the resources they have at hand, and how they may make advancements with their approaches. They need to be placed in the shoes of others to see the hardships of survival, and learn to mould according to situations. However, it is not compulsory for them to witness only the weaknesses of the community while planning their approaches, but rather keep track of the resources they have at hand for implementing goals.

Great value has been given to the participating of community members in the development process. Their involvement in the research process is of utmost significance, providing a sense of responsibility and motivation into the study. Every individual included in the study or research is a part of it automatically, and is active in proposing ideas and reduces chances of discrimination amongst members (Packham, C., 1998).

In the modern world, if we speak of the current situation, everything needs accountability, which further requires proper evaluation of deeds and outcomes. The social inequality that is prevalent in society can be eliminated by participation of individuals, and eradication of social discrimination.

It has been seen through the various studies conduced, that for community developmental processes, the research that is carried out should be with a qualitative approach, due to the diverse opinion-related openings. These chances exist because people make up society, and whatever they experience or wish to experience is in their own hands at large. At times both quantitative and qualitative methods of research can be employed for mixed method study conduction, (Neill, J., 2007) but for community development specifically, the qualitative method would prove more beneficial, and its results would be more worthwhile.

Conclusion

Communities and people may be affected by what our thought processes as individuals are. Everyone contributes to the community in his or her own way. This is why qualitative methods of researching are a better option for this subject, as compared to quantitative, because of the interaction of people, and involvement of their attitudes and behaviors. They play an eminent role in community development, than statistical data.

References

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Cox, P., Geisen, T., & Green, R. Qualitative Research and Social Change 2007. Web.

Ereaut, G. QSR International 2007. Web.

Frechtling, J., Sharp, L., & Westat. User-Friendly Handbook for Mixed Method Evaluations 1997. Web.

Ismail, M. Quantitative Research Methodology 2005. Web.

Meyer, J. Using Qualitative Methods in Health Related Action Research 2000. BMJ 2000;320:178-181. Web.

Neill, J. Qualitative versus Quantitative Research: Key Points in a Classic Debate 2007. Web.

Packham, C. Community Auditing as Community Development 1998. Community Development Journal 33 (3): 249. Web.

Trochim, W. Web.

Thompson, R. Qualitative research study design 2008. Web.