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Research Paradigms and Perspectives: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches

Research Paradigms and Perspectives


Research refers to a systematic investigation that involves data collection, analysis and interpretation with the aim of understanding, describing, predicting or controlling a psychological or educational phenomenon or empowering people in such arenas (Davies and Hughes, 2014). The paradigm that is sometimes known as the theoretical framework influences the manner in which knowledge is interpreted and studied. The choice of paradigm lays down the expectations, motivation and intent for research. This implies that the research paradigm lays the ground for the following choices including research design, literature, methods as well as methodology. This paper will explain the understanding of these research approaches.

When selecting a research methodology, one has two options: selecting qualitative research approaches or selecting quantitative research approaches. According to Davies and Hughes (2014) it is not clear-cut as it is often assumed about the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Scientists may utilize both approaches at same or different times depending on the research question’s nature. The terms quantitative research is often used when referring to research methods while qualitative research is used when referring to research paradigm. Qualitative research approach follows the scientific method of exploration. It is used in describing things seen locally, and other times to generate new theories and hypotheses. This approach is mostly used when there is insufficient knowledge of the phenomenon or topic and when an individual wants to learn or discover more about the topic. Most commonly, it is used to comprehend the experiences of people as well as express their perspectives. On the other hand, quantitative research approach most commonly follows the confirmatory scientific method since its emphasis is on testing of theory or testing of hypothesis. Quantitative researchers contend that it is crucial to state the hypothesis and then test the stated hypotheses using empirical data to see whether or not they are supported. However, in intensive projects, researchers may utilize a circular order whereby measurement follows an exploration while the measurement is followed by a phase of qualitative analysis so as to highlight scientific findings’ aspects.

Davies and Hughes (2014) simply put it that qualitative research needs careful thinking beforehand. Therefore, qualitative research requires alertness, flexibility and mental agility during collection of data. It also demands innovative skills in the management of data and text-driven creativeness during write-up and analysis. On the other hand, quantitative research needs discipline, patience and imagination at the stages of design and planning. It is argued that collection of data may cause technical issues and needs tenacity, however, more often than not, it is straightforward. The manner in which the project is set up largely determines write-up and data analysis tasks.

In determining what research approach to undertake for a study, Davies and Hughes (2014) highlight when an individual needs to use qualitative or quantitative or both approaches at the same or different times. First, when describing monitoring or investigating in your research, it is advisable to use both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. However, both yield different types of description. When it comes to exploration, it would depend on the exploration nature. However, both approaches can be employed. Qualitative approaches often depend on observation and interviews, while quantitative approaches employ a survey of some type. However, in each case, the nature of the produced exploratory material is different.

Additionally, when one’s research involves interpretation, qualitative research would be useful but advanced approaches of survey analysis might also be useful in a different way. Also, when one’s research involves looking beyond the surface, qualitative research would be required so as to express the individual’s experiences and feelings in relation to the research question (Davies and Hughes, 2014).

From Wang (2015)’s research study on explaining professional learning in schools in China, Wang identifies his research as interpretive and exploratory. From his article, it is clear that his interpretive research was significant in envisaging the case setting’s social reality, which is unknown at the beginning until the researcher comprehends the way participants interact in their context. Qualitative research approach is employed in this case because the researcher wanted to capture the viewpoint of participants as well as maintain their own viewpoints as outsiders.

Furthermore, in Wang (2015)’s case, semi-structured interviews, documents and observation data collection methods were employed to gather in-depth information which reflects on qualitative research. The fact that there is an urge of searching for evidence to create high-quality and long-term education systems, it is clear from Wang’s article that when it comes to education sector, national economies have sought to compete globally to develop sustainable high quality education systems (Wang, 2015). Besides, professional learning is dynamic, supported and completely integrated into the operation and culture of the school system. Therefore, any research linked to education would require in-depth understanding, interpretation, exploration and clarification. And this is mostly delivered through qualitative research approach. This goes for many sectors around the world- economy, politics, environment and social interaction among others. To stay competitive during these changing times, both approaches can be employed in these sectors to achieve better results.


In conclusion, in the contemporary world, most scientific researchers perceive quantitative and qualitative research approaches as complementary selecting the most appropriate approach or approaches for the study. While some paradigms seem to lead researchers to choose between quantitative and qualitative approaches, in the end, none of the paradigms actually prohibits or prescribes the employment of either research approach. Notwithstanding, for completely effective research, both quantitative and qualitative research approaches should be employed.


Davies, M. B., & Hughes, N. (2014). Doing a successful research project: Using qualitative or quantitative methods. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wang, T. (2015). Contrived collegiality versus genuine collegiality: demystifying professional learning communities in Chinese schools. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 45(6), 908-930.