Compare & Contrast Qualitative & Quantitative Research Methods

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EDITORIAL Qualities of Qualitative Research: Part I M any important medical education research questions cry out for a qualitative research approach: How do teacher characteristics affect learning? Why do learners choose particular specialties? How is professionalism influenced by experiences, mentors, or the curriculum? The medical paradigm, the ‘‘hard’’ science most often taught in medical schools, usually employs quantitative approaches.1 As a result, clinicians may be less familiar with qualitative research or its applicability to medical education questions. For these why types of questions, qualitative or mixed qualitative and quantitative approaches may be more appropriate and helpful.2 Thus, we wish to encourage submissions to the Journal of Graduate Medical Education that are for qualitative purposes or use qualitative methods. This editorial is the first in a series of two, and it will provide an introduction to qualitative approaches and compare features of quantitative and qualitative research. The second editorial will review in more detail the approaches for selecting participants, analyzing data, and ensuring rigor and study quality in qualitative research. The aims of the editorials are to enhance readers’ understanding of articles using this approach and to encourage more researchers to explore qualitative approaches. Theory and Methodology Good research follows from a reasonable starting point, a theoretical concept or perspective. Quantitative research uses a positivist perspective in which evidence is objectively and systematically obtained to prove a causal model or hypothesis; what works is the focus.3 Alternatively, qualitative approaches focus on how and why something works, to build understanding.3 In the positivist model, study objects (eg, learners) are independent of the researchers, and knowledge
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