Research in psychology can be generally divided in to two major types:
To be it simply, quantiative research deals in investigating human behaviour by looking at numbers and statistics. Experiments, correlational studies, and meta-analyses are some of the quantitative methods used in Psychology. Quantitative research often tries to investigate cause and effects, or correlations between factors and behaviour.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that human behaviour is far more complex than to be reduced to numbers. It is not as concerned with explaining human behaviour but more interested describing it. It recognises that there is still value in understanding people’s subjective experiences of particular phenomena.
There are three major qualitative methods that we’ll look at:
- Case Studies
Note that these methods can also be used as part of quantitative methods. Bandura in his famous Bobo Doll Study, for instance, used an observation as part of his experimental design. Famous Case Studies like those of patients with brain damage (e.g. HM, Clive Wearing, etc.) may also use quantitative methods.
The key really is to understand when and why a qualitative approach may be more insightful than a quantitative one, and this is what you’ll hopefully understand by the end of this unit.
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.