The strengths and weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative research: what method for nursing?

L T Carr
Journal of Advanced Nursing 1994, 20 (4): 716-21
The overall purpose of research for any profession is to discover the truth of the discipline. This paper examines the controversy over the methods by which truth is obtained, by examining the differences and similarities between quantitative and qualitative research. The historically negative bias against qualitative research is discussed, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, with issues highlighted by reference to nursing research. Consideration is given to issues of sampling; the relationship between the researcher and subject; methodologies and collated data; validity; reliability, and ethical dilemmas. The author identifies that neither approach is superior to the other; qualitative research appears invaluable for the exploration of subjective experiences of patients and nurses, and quantitative methods facilitate the discovery of quantifiable information. Combining the strengths of both approaches in triangulation, if time and money permit, is also proposed as a valuable means of discovering the truth about nursing. It is argued that if nursing scholars limit themselves to one method of enquiry, restrictions will be placed on the development of nursing knowledge.


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