Before analyzing methods, it is necessary to understand difference between ‘scientific method’ and ‘scientific methodology’.

Method is a tool or a technique used to collect data. It is a procedure for obtaining knowledge based on empirical observations and logical reasoning.

Methodology is logic of scientific investigation. Methodology means description, explanation and justification of methods and not the methods themselves.

When we talk of methodology of any social science, say of sociology, we refer to the method(s) used by sociologist, e.g. survey method, experimental method, case study method, statistical method and so on. The word ‘technique’ is also used in the contexts of inquiry of any science, e.g., techniques in a mass opinion, survey, for conducting interviews, for observation and so on. There is a right way and a wrong way or a good way and a bad way to do anything in science as in any other work. The techniques of a science are the ways of doing the work of that science. Methodology is concerned with techniques in this sense.

Methodology inquires into the potentialities and limitations of some technique or other. It is a plan and procedure for carrying out the research. It refers to research techniques and strategies for obtaining valid information. It is an approach to understanding phenomenon. It is a procedure of empirical investigation. It is not concerned with building knowledge but how knowledge is built, i.e., how facts are collected, classified and analysed.

The approach of a social scientist is different from that of a natural scientist. A natural scientist does not participate in the phenomenon, he studies,

  1. does not interview elements,
  2. has a laboratory for conducting experiments,
  3. uses instruments and chemical and
  4. can control many variables, in his experiment.

Against this, a social scientist….

  1. participates in the phenomenon under study,
  2. interviews elements from whom collects data,
  3. has no laboratory,
  4. does not use any instruments for measuring etc., like barometers and so on,
  5. cannot control many variables.

Thus, the difference in the approach of two scientists is of methodology and not method. Methodology refers to philosophy on which research is based. This philosophy includes assumptions and values that serve as basis (rationale) for research and are used for interviewing data and reaching conclusions. It is said that the methodology used in natural sciences is more rigorous than that of social sciences.

The cost of poll violence (in cores) in Lok Sabha elections in last ten elections in India? How many mandays have been lost due to strikes and lockouts in industries in India in the last two decades?

This type of research is based on the methodological principles of positivism and adheres to the standards of strict sampling and research design.

Quantitative Method;

This research employs quantitative measurement and the use of statistical analysis. For example, what percentage of medical, engineering, law, arts, science and commerce students takes drugs or uses alcohol? What percentage of prisoners rejects prison norms and internalizes norms of the inmate world? What percentage of women leading unhappy marital life takes initiative to divorce their husbands?

Qualititative Method;

This research presents non-quantitative type of analysis. It describes reality as experienced by the groups, communities, individuals etc. For example, how does the structure and organisation of wall-less prisons (or minimum security jails) differ from that of the central or district jails (or maximum security jails) and contribute to the reformation and resocialisation of criminals? What has been the partywise stand on women’s reservation in Parliament and state assemblies?

Difference in Designing Quantitative and Qualitative Method;

Quantitative researchers tend to be more prescriptive than qualitative researchers. The later operate with as few prescriptions as possible.

Some people hold that the qualitative researchers usually do not employ a design. They are more open and flexible and have greater freedom of choice. But this is not correct. Investigators engaged in qualitative research are equally concerned with how, what, where and when the data are to be collected. However, some differences in designing the two types of research (quantitative is described here as ‘former’ and qualitative as ‘later) may be pointed here (Sarantakos):

  1. In the former research, the problem is specific and precise in the later research, it is general and loosely structured.
  2. In the former, the hypotheses are formulated before the study; in the latter, hypotheses are either during the study or after the study.
  3. In the former, concepts are operationalized; in the latter concepts are only sensitized.
  4. In the former, in designing research, the design is prescriptive; in the latter, the design is not prescriptive.
  5. In the former, sampling is planned before data collection; in the latter, it is planned during data collection.
  6. In the former, sampling is representative; in the latter, it is not representative.
  7. In the former, all types of measurements/scales are employed; in the latter, mostly nominal scales are used.
  8. In the former, for data collection, generally investigators are employed in big researches; in the latter, the researchers analyse data single-handed.
  9. In the former, in processing data, usually inductive generalization is made; in the latter, usually analytical generalization are made.
  10. In reporting in the former research the finding are highly integrated; in the latter, the findings
    are mostly not integrated.

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