Evaluate the usefulness of Qualitative research methods. Qualitative methods such as case studies and interviews certainly have their place in science, especially in the social sciences. However qualitative research possesses a number of key flaws, and as a result is used less than quantitative methods. Shuval et.al(2011) claim that qualitative research made up a mere 4.1% of research published in medical journals in 2007.

One important use of qualitative research is in the formulation of hypotheses. Case studies such as those of rare cases can have a large impact in that they galvanize the scientific community. A classic example of this is The Case study of H.M. For those you not familiar with this case I’ll summarise somewhat. H.M was a patient who underwent brain surgery, in which his hippocampi was removed in an attempt to cure his severe epilepsy. This resulted in devastating affect on his ability to form new memories. As it would be unethical to purposefully cause perform lesions such as this for research purposes, cases such as this are invaluable to our understanding.

However qualitative research such as this lack generalisability, as a result they may be used in developing hypotheses but lack value in themselves as studies(Dogan & Pelassy,1990). For example decisions about which treatment the NHS should use for Schizophrenia could not be based case studies. Although case studies of schizophrenia could be used to enrich our understanding of schizophrenia, and as a result aid in the development treatments. However before implementing such treatments quantitative research is required to assess it’s usefulness in the wider population.

Another key problem with using qualitative methods is the lack of control of variables, which is crucial for ensuring validity of results. Some would even go as far to say that due to their lack of control qualitative methods are scientifically valueless(Campbell & Stanley, 1966). This isn’t entirely the case, as mentioned above such methods can help with the formation of hypotheses and serve as a basis to build around. Nevertheless the lack of validity and generalisability makes it is difficult to develop knowledge. Considering that the aim of science explain phenomena in the world around us, means that qualitative research will always have limited use in science.

References:

Campbell, D. T., & Stanley, J. C. (1966). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Chicago: Rand McNally

Shuval et.al(2011) claim that qualitative research made up a mere 4.1% of research in 2007.

Dogan, M., & Pelassy, D. (1990). How to compare nations: Strategies in comparative politics (2nd ed.)

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