Business research is, arguably, founded on the study of social interactions within the realm of commerce and trade. Until recently, such research has seen staunch counter-position of two research paradigms: quantitative and qualitative, the first deriving from positivism, the latter from interventionism.
Indeed, the positions taken by individual researchers vary considerably between those like Bryman (1988) who argues for a “best of both worlds” approach by suggesting that qualitative and quantitative approaches be combined to those of scholars like Hughes (1997) whom counteracts by stating that such technicist solutions underestimate the politics of legitimacy that are associated with the choice of methods. It is the purpose of this essay to analyze these two research frameworks highlighting the positive aspects as well as the flaws and limits, and highlighting the rise of what is often referred to as the “mixed” method.
All of this will be seen within a business contest. Specifically, looking at the author’s proposed future research in the realm of commercial negotiations, the arguments presented will reflect this sphere of research. Quantitative and qualitative research are based on different philosophical approaches and methodologies. Quantitative research derives from neo-positivist philosophy which underlines the belief in the presence of an absolute truth as its core foundation.
This perspective of seeing the world translates in the utilization of research approaches founded on scientific analysis through statistical elaborations and mathematical models. The qualitative approach by contrast, does not highlight the presence of absolute truths but rather truths which are dependent on the particular perspective from which a phenomenon is observed through. This off-course entails that qualitative research is undertaken primarily through the adoption of narrative and logical deduction.
These differences appear encapsulated in Best & Khan’s (1989: 90-90) statement: “Quantitative research consists of those studies in which the data concerned can be analysed in terms of numbers…Research can also be quantitative, that is, it can describe events, persons and so forth scientifically without the use of numerical data…Quantitative research is more open and responsive to its subject. ” From a first glance, it appears clear that there are substantial differences between the quantitative and qualitative approaches.
Indeed, the way data is obtained, the flexibility in methodological application, the objective and subjective nature of the results obtained, are just a few of the most evident points of contrast. Such contracts has resulted in what has been defined as the “paradigm wars” which has highlighted and emphasized the incompatibility of the two approaches. For a protracted period of time the quantitative approach has been seen the best form of research for two main sets of reason.
Firstly, scientific progress in the last century has projected the notion of the scientific approach as the most apt for explaining the world around us. Secondly, the advent of the “information age” from the 1980’s has seen the ability of elaborating a vast amount of data electronically thus further promoting the scientific approach as the best method to adopt for research. Recently however, the divide between the quantitative and qualitative has diminished to the point of many scholars advocating a debate on the merits of a mixed research methodology utilizing the strengths of both schools of thought.
Indeed, the quest for obtaining the best possible research result has seen a reconceptualization of research methods with an integration of the two main philosophies which may be used to converge and convalidate (defined as “triangulation”), refute data or indeed inform new paths of enquiry. Indeed, research papers today often contain statistical data derived from the quantitative methodology which is then presented and formulated in interviews which put the data into the “real-world” perspective. The integration of the two approaches also makes sense when one starts to look at the commonalities between them.
Indeed, both approaches share the following characteristics: -Research project design -Identification of information -Information management -Analysis of data -Empirical observations There are many other characteristics which instead differentiate quantitative and qualitative research, but a growing group of scholars are now perceiving these differences as positive in that they may reinforce rather than detract from each other. This is often referred to as “triangulation” and I believe this to be of paramount importance within the context of business research.
Indeed, just like the integrated approach, the business sphere also is a mixture and fusion of statistics, and “hard” financial data in conjunction with “softer” narrative explanations derived from interviews, and focus groups. Delving even more specifically into my proposed realm of research which centers around the commercial negotiation methodologies adopted in multicultural environments and frontier markets, the integrated approach is, in my opinion, the only approach capable of providing a true and accurate framework for developing such research.
This claim is further upheld if one considers the eleven ways in which it is possible to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods: 1)Logic of triangulation in which the findings from one type of study can be checked against the findings from the other type as above highlighted; 2)Facilitation of qualitative research for quantitative research.
In this instance the qualitative research informs the quantitative method by providing essential background information and a context; 3)Facilitation of quantitative research for qualitative research. In this occurrence quantitative research methodology helps to inform the qualitative one by providing a filter and narrowing down the subjects which merit further investigation. 4)Quantitative and qualitative approaches are combined into one thereby furnishing a more in-depth analysis. 5)Structure & process.