Philosophy of Quantitative and Qualitative Research


Research is an essential part for the growth of any profession in today’s world. Nursing research is a systemic inquiry to answer the question or problems encountered in the clinical practice, education and administration (Polit & Beck, 2008). Research studies have great importance in nursing profession because it provide strong evidence that help nurses to make sound clinical decision and judgment in the clinical setting; it helps to give evidence based nursing care to the patient that would be clinically appropriate, cost effective and result in positive outcome of patient. Moreover, it assists to elevate the standard and reputation of nursing profession. In addition, knowledge contribution will be increased in the discipline (Polit & Beck, 2008). Therefore, nurses are expected to understand and conduct research in their field. This paper illustrate the paradigms for nursing research, highlight the epistemological and ontological assumption related to Positivist and Naturalistic paradigms, mention the philosophy of quantitative and qualitative research than narrate the underlying philosophy that will guide my thesis work.

According to Donaldson and Crowley (as cited by Northrup, 1992), “a discipline is characterized by a unique perspective, a distinct way of viewing all phenomena…” (p. 154). Philosophy of a profession serves as a guide for the practice and research. Nursing philosophy can give a direction for nurse’s practice, education, research and scholastic work (Steven & Edwards, 2008). The key components of philosophy include “ontology” and “epistemology”. Ontology deals with nature or involves the philosophy of reality; whereas, the term epistemology comes from the Greek word “episteme” means knowledge. In simple term epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge or how we come to know the reality (Gortner, 1993).

Research philosophical paradigm are sets of beliefs and practices that regulate inquiry within a discipline by providing lenses, frames and processes through which study is carried out (Steven & Edwards, 2008). Research philosophy directs the perspective from which researcher formulate research questions, plan how problem can be investigated, select research design as well as identify what methods are used and how data are collected, analyzed and interpreted (Steven & Edwards, 2008). Therefore, nurse researchers before conducting any study should have clarity about the paradigm because it will enable them to structure inquiry, and select the research approach. According to Polit & Beck, (2008) Nursing research paradigms are broadly classified as Positivist paradigm (also termed as Empiricist) and Naturalistic paradigm (also termed as Post-positivist, Interpretative or Constructivist). The researchers does not always clearly state the philosophical stance on which the study is based; however, one can identify the stance by carefully reading the literature review, identifying the research question, understanding the purpose of the study and examining the researcher’s method (Carr, 1994). Moreover, the researcher’s knowledge of both types of research approach endorse accurate selection of the methodology for the problem identified (Carr, 1994). Research methods are selected that facilitate to plan a study systemically, to collect data and investigate information (Boyd, 2001). Qualitative and Quantitative are the two major research methods or approaches used in nursing studies. “Qualitative is a systematic, interactive and subjective approach used to describe life experiences and give them meaning” (Burns & Grove, 2006, p. 35). This type of research is conducted to describe and promote understanding of human experience such as stress. While, “Quantitative research is a formal, objective, and systematic process in which numerical data are used to obtain information about the world” (Burns & Grove, 2006, p. 35). The example of quantitative research question: what is the prevalence of drug abuse in Pakistan”? Both approaches are needed to provide knowledge in nursing discipline. They are also characterized by ontological and epistemological differences to conceptualize and conduct research.

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