This commentary will analyse the key principles of the research methods used in the research of students attitudes to politics, society and crime. It will discuss where this research lies on the inductive/deductive spectrum and why, the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative methods of research in relation to the survey and finally why quantitative research methods were preferable to qualitative research methods for this research. Characteristics of quantitative research in relation to questionnaire In this research a questionnaire was created to examine student’s attitudes to politics, society and crime.
The questionnaire was set up with multiple choice answers for questions, answers on a scale of 1-10 and some questions required a short qualitative answer. Bryman (1992) states that surveys are one of the key vehicles of quantitative research. Quantitative research uses scientific methods to study people and is the preferred research method of positivists, quantitative research creates mathematical results which can be compared and contrasted on a large scale in the belief that this approach establishes facts through quantification.
Quantification has been defined as. the sum of standardization, measurement and number- is crucial to the natural science approach, because it renders the concepts embedded in theoretical schemes or hypotheses observable, manipulable, and testable. ” (Hammersly 1993:15) The intellectual underpinnings of Quantitative research are positivism, measurement, causality, generalisation, replication and individualism. The method of data collection and analysis used for this questionnaire would be favoured by positivists as positivists believe that scientific methods are the best way to test a thesis and gain accurate results based on large numbers of people.
The measurement of this survey relates to how crime affects university students. This survey shows causality, as it includes dependant and independent variables such as age, gender, location and then answers on have they been a victim of crime and how much do they fear crime, these results can be compared and it shows that differences in gender, age and location change the level of fear of crime and the number of victims of crime. These results are very important for positivist researchers as it allows them to create generalisations about the variables that have been studied.
Other researchers who look at the results of this survey can see how much certain variables affect levels and fear of crime amongst students in Newcastle. This survey could now be replicated in other areas of the country as it will give the same kind of results creating comparable results for example rates and fears of crime amongst students could be compared between Sunderland and Newcastle or even between other countries. This questionnaire also includes some questions that appear to be qualitative as they require an opinion or an explanation.
By contrast qualitative methods are more focused on smaller groups of people and understanding their opinions, feelings and experiences within the social world. Qualitative research methods include ethnography, participant observation, semi or unstructured interviews, life histories and group discussions. This method of research is favoured by interpretivists as they believe that detailed points of view and through, for example unstructured and semi-structured interviews is the most effective way of getting true results on how and why people feel a certain way.
Interpretivists believe that quantitative methods impose an artificial structure and encourage people to give answers that aren’t true to how they feel. It can also be argued that surveys and questionnaires are less likely to give accurate results as people might rush their answers, not giving a true reflection of their opinions and leading to inaccurate results and perhaps false generalisations where as interpretivists argue it is harder to lie to someone’s face in an interview or group discussion.
However, positivists criticise qualitative methods of research because qualitative data can not be easily compared and contrasted with other qualitative data meaning replication is not possible so generalisations cannot be made and only small samples can be used in positivist approaches it is “taken to be a necessary (if not always sufficient) condition for the findings of research to be replicable and generalizable, and for predictions up the basis of observed regularities to be made” (Hammersly 1993:15)
Inductive and deductive approaches in relation to survey An inductive approach to research is the process of collecting data without pre-conceptions about the outcomes and then relating the results to existing knowledge or theory of the topic of research or to new theory. “Inductive reasoning works by moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this “bottom up”” (socialresearchmethods. et) Deductive research is the process of collecting data and using it to test a hypothesis already created or research question which the survey was specifically made to confirm or deny. “Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a “top-down” approach. ” (socialresearchmethods. net) Quantitative research is usually deductive as positivists tend to create a thesis and then use surveys and questionnaires to create large amount of numerical figures to back up their thesis.
However, this survey on students’ attitudes to politics, society and crime used an inductive method of research as there was no thesis or question to confirm on the topic of the questionnaire. the questionnaire was set up to research how different variables affect students political views, fears of crime and views on society allowing the researcher to test whether the results match existing theory or knowledge about the different variables.
The reason an inductive method of research was used as oppose to a more common deductive method for quantitative research was used was due to the large amount of changeable variables in the results, the range of questions in the survey were too broad to have a set thesis or question to be answered by the survey, therefore an inductive method was better suited to this research as multiple people can use the results of this survey to create their own thesis on different variables, for example “More male students in choose not to vote in elections than female students”.
Conclusion Overall, the methods used for this questionnaire and analysis of the data were quantitative as most of the answers to the questions were restricted to multiple choice and scale of 1-10 answers. This method was better suited to a qualitative approach because the key characteristics of quantitative data allow for the comparing and contrasting of results and causality which allows the researcher to find differences in results depending on dependant variables and independent variables, which was very important for this urvey as there was a lot of changeable variables such as political values affect fear of crime and where people lived affecting rates of victims of crime. Although qualitative methods would have provided a more depth insight into why the students felt the way they did about crime, politics and social life and may have given a view of how students live their lives day to day.
This data would not offer causality meaning the data would not be comparable unlike numerical data and it would take much longer to hold unstructured interviews and take part in participant observations therefore there would be much fewer results and generalisations would not be able to made and identical studies could not be made in other areas of the country and compared. This research used an inductive approach as oppose to deductive and this was better suited to allowing people to create theories from it or testing out there own theories using it.