Just Sociology

Why Interpretivists Prefer Qualitative Methods Over Quantitative Methods

Interpretivism is a research paradigm that emphasizes the importance of social contexts and the subjective experiences of individuals. Whereas positivism seeks to explain phenomena through empirical data obtained through quantitative methods, interpretivism seeks to understand complex social phenomena through qualitative data that capture the subjective experiences of individuals in their social contexts.

In this article, we will explore the reasons why interpretivists prefer qualitative methods over quantitative methods and the limitations of using quantitative methods in capturing complex social phenomena.

Reasons why Interpretivists prefer qualitative methods

Social realities are complex and require capturing micro-interactions

One of the reasons why interpretivists prefer qualitative methods is that social realities are complex and require capturing micro-interactions. Social interactions are not linear; they involve multiple actors who bring their own unique experiences and perspectives to the social interactions.

Moreover, individuals construct their self-concepts through social interactions, and these self-concepts can shape their responses to different situations. For example, labelling theory posits that individuals are labeled by others in society, and these labels can shape their self-concepts and behavior.

Qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews, diaries, and participant observation are better suited for capturing these complex social interactions and self-concepts. Unstructured interviews allow individuals to express themselves in their own words, while diaries allow individuals to capture their experiences in their own time and at their own pace.

Participant observation allows researchers to observe and document social interactions as they unfold, providing a rich source of data on micro-interactions and social contexts. On the other hand, structured questionnaires used in quantitative research can limit the range of responses that individuals can provide, leading to a shallow understanding of their experiences and perspectives.

In other words, structured questionnaires do not capture the rich nuances of social interactions that are better captured through qualitative methods. Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory and uncovering genuine versus cynical performances

Another reason why interpretivists prefer qualitative methods is that they allow researchers to uncover the genuine versus cynical performances of individuals in social interactions.

Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory posits that individuals perform different roles in social interactions, depending on the context and the audience. Individuals have a front stage where they perform to the audience and a back stage where they can be themselves.

Qualitative methods such as participant observation and questionnaires are better suited for capturing these performances and uncovering the reasons behind them. For example, participant observation allows researchers to observe individuals in their natural environment and document their performances in different social roles.

Questionnaires allow researchers to ask individuals about their perceived roles and performances, providing insight into the reasons behind their performances. In contrast, quantitative methods such as structured questionnaires are not well-suited for capturing these performances, as they provide a limited range of responses and do not allow for nuanced explanations of behaviors.

Therefore, qualitative methods are better suited for uncovering the genuine versus cynical performances of individuals in social interactions.

Limitations of using quantitative methods for capturing complex social phenomena

Inability to capture micro-interactions and subconsciously communicated expectations

A major limitation of using quantitative methods for capturing complex social phenomena is their inability to capture micro-interactions and subconsciously communicated expectations. As we discussed in subtopic 1.1, social interactions are complex and involve multiple actors who bring their own unique experiences and perspectives to the interactions.

Furthermore, individuals can communicate their expectations subconsciously, which can shape the outcome of social interactions. For example, research has shown that low teacher expectations can negatively impact the academic performance of students.

However, these expectations are often communicated subconsciously, making them difficult to capture through quantitative methods. For instance, structured questionnaires only allow for a limited range of responses and do not capture the subtle nuances of teacher expectations that can impact student performance.

Therefore, qualitative methods are better suited for capturing these micro-interactions and subconsciously communicated expectations.

Limitations in assessing authenticity of social roles and performances

Another limitation of using quantitative methods in capturing complex social phenomena is their limitations in assessing the authenticity of social roles and performances. As we discussed in subtopic 1.2, individuals can perform different roles in social interactions, depending on the context and the audience.

Moreover, individuals can consciously or subconsciously alter their performances to achieve certain outcomes. For example, research has shown that individuals may present a cynical performance when they feel they are being judged or evaluated.

However, if this aspect is not captured through quantitative methods, the results may not be valid. Although quantitative methods such as structured questionnaires can measure attitudes and beliefs, they cannot measure the authenticity of social roles and performances.

Therefore, qualitative methods such as participant observation and questionnaires are better suited for capturing the authenticity of social roles and performances.

Conclusion

In conclusion, interpretivists prefer qualitative methods over quantitative methods because social realities are complex and require capturing micro-interactions and because qualitative methods are better suited for uncovering the genuine versus cynical performances of individuals in social interactions. On the other hand, quantitative methods have limitations in capturing micro-interactions and subconsciously communicated expectations and in assessing the authenticity of social roles and performances.

By understanding these limitations, researchers can apply appropriate research methods to capture the full complexity of social phenomena. In conclusion, this article discusses the reasons why interpretivists prefer qualitative methods over quantitative methods and the limitations of using quantitative methods in capturing complex social phenomena.

By using qualitative methods, researchers can capture the nuances of social interactions and uncover the genuine versus cynical performances of individuals, whereas quantitative methods have limitations in capturing micro-interactions and assessing the authenticity of social roles and performances. Understanding the strengths and limitations of these research methods can help researchers to choose the appropriate methods for capturing the full complexity of social phenomena.

FAQs:

Q: What is interpretivism? A: Interpretivism is a research paradigm that emphasizes the importance of social contexts and the subjective experiences of individuals.

Q: Why do interpretivists prefer qualitative methods over quantitative methods? A: Interpretivists prefer qualitative methods because social realities are complex and require capturing micro-interactions, and because qualitative methods are better suited for uncovering the genuine versus cynical performances of individuals in social interactions.

Q: What are the limitations of using quantitative methods in capturing complex social phenomena? A: The limitations of using quantitative methods include their inability to capture micro-interactions and subconsciously communicated expectations, and their limitations in assessing the authenticity of social roles and performances.

Q: What is labelling theory? A: Labelling theory posits that individuals are labeled by others in society, and these labels can shape their self-concepts and behavior.

Q: What is Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory? A: Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory posits that individuals perform different roles in social interactions, depending on the context and the audience.

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