13 Feb

Qualitative research can make a lot of serious sense. This, among other interesting conclusions, was the position reached by many of those attending the “Qualitative Research Workshop” organized by C4DLab on February 11 this year.

Beginning with what makes qualitative research “qualitative”, six distinguishing points were given- in effect: “The Qualitative Method” is more about generating data rather than collecting it; interpreting results rather than “counting”; generating hypothesis as opposed to testing.

The remaining three points which mark off the qualitative method of doing research from the quantitative one have to do with the former being an “induction” process, while the latter a “deduction” endeavor. With qualitative research, the researcher has to generalize to theory rather than to a population. Finally, the whole process of the qualitative approach to research turns on creating theory instead of testing scientific studies and theory.

As to the objections leveled against the method under consideration, members of the workshop found them rather problematic. One, if the qualitative method of going about research is “unscientific”, the holder of such a position has to convince their opponent what they mean by “scientific”. Of which there is no agreement yet on what makes any of the approaches scientific, let alone any other method.

In addition, qualitative research is not just “qualitative”; rather, there can be some objective “truth” in its findings. The “subjective” argument, often made to discredit the qualitative method, may not ultimately stand the test of  evidence and time because even the “scientific method” is not safe from “feelings” of the researcher, if they have to draw “meaningful” conclusions.

Further, the results of a qualitative study can be trusted, when the conclusions are drawn from reliable evidence. Eventually, all factors considered, the method can generate valid results-for all we know, when something is valid, nothing can make it more or even less so. This is the position shared by both believers of the qualitative and quantitative schools of thought.

Facilitating the one-hour session was Professor Matilda Dahl of the Uppsala University’s Business Studies Department in Sweden.


About the writer

Moses Omusolo is the Social Media Manager, C4DLab.