In a pluralistic research approach, two research paths can be distinguished – quantitative and qualitative.
These approaches complement each other, which means that the researcher does not treat them as opposed to each other but as complementary to each other. Both types can be used in parallel or sequentially. Quantitative research can be supplemented and enriched with qualitative research and vice versa. A pluralistic approach creates the opportunity to learn social reality in various ways.
The quantitative approach is derived from the assumptions of a methodology based on positivist philosophy. The assumptions underlie the “existence of an objective world, the possibility of equally objective knowledge of it with precisely constructed tools. Only the measurable objects are examined, and the cause-and-effect relationships are searched for, to discover them, to be able to exert a more effective influence on social reality “(T. Pilch, T. Bauman, 2001, p. 268).
In these studies, the researcher is usually the external observer of the examined facts, phenomena, processes and behaviors. The methodology of research carried out in this trend is modeled on the methodology of research in natural conditions. In quantitative researches, the researcher, while maintaining objectivity, by means of counting and measuring, examines only objects that can be measured.
The studied phenomena are assigned numerical values.
“First, the researcher must define the facts he is interested in, build a model of the phenomenon, determine the conditions of occurrence of facts, relations between them, assign them the role of cause or effect. It must also construct research tools that allow measurement, paying attention to their accuracy (measure what they are supposed to measure) and reliability (accuracy of measurement) “.
The empirical quantitative research model is often unhelpful in the practice of social research. Some facts and phenomena are subjected only to empirical quantitative research procedures related to description, explanation, counting, measuring, and others are not subjected to these procedures;
The qualitative approach focuses on getting to know facts and phenomena in the form in which they are perceived by people. The group of qualitative methods refers to the methodology assuming “subjective character of own knowledge and cognition”. The researcher has here “consciousness of unity with the studied world (lack of a dual division into the cognizer and the world being known) must use soft and flexible tools with the help of which he can penetrate more deeply into the studied phenomenon, and expand the perspective of its viewership (context) “.
In qualitative research, mathematical analytical procedures, description and explanation, measurement are rejected, and an approach is adopted to “understand and interpret” social phenomena directed to the world of values, experiences, hopes, feelings, fears, aspirations and attitudes of the respondents.
Qualitative research “from the inside” allows learning the broader context of interesting phenomena and recognizing them in natural conditions. The researcher may study contacts between people, their relations, use empathy, listen, talk to the respondents and in this way learn not only facts and social phenomena, but also their circumstances, effects and meanings.
Among the qualitative methods, T. Bauman distinguishes: ethnographic research, case study, biographical research, phenomenographic studies, research in action.
Other methods include: participant observation, free observation, individual and group free interview, taking the form of a non-binding conversation, conducted in an atmosphere of trust, and analysis of personal documents.
Qualitative research, despite many advantages, raises some reservations.
They are accused of being unreliable because of the lack of repetition. However, the qualitative approach is the most desirable, since facts and phenomena are not subject to quantitative research and require qualitative research that serves the purpose of understanding and interpreting.