A paradigm is generally used as a reference or model that allows to address a topic in a more precise way. For this, a series of regulations , proposals as well as statements are proposed, all these elements are ordered in such a way that theories that try to explain a particular topic are described.

This is how different types of paradigms emerge, each of them adapts to different study topics that require the most appropriate perspectives, practices, positions and resources . One of them is the qualitative paradigm that has a perspective that focuses its attention on the understanding of human behaviors and actions.

It is one of the typologies that integrates language analysis techniques as well as creativity techniques. But it also uses other types of resources that allow studying history by proposing a discussion and analysis. The important thing is to explain social processes , understand the various structures that influence their development. This is how it is about explaining the subjectivity of people which they manifest through their behavior.

What is the qualitative paradigm?

Any researcher who intends to carry out an investigation that produces valuable results, must start from a reasonable perspective or theoretical foundation. The quantitative research involves a positivist view , which seeks to prove a causal hypothesis, based on the scientific method. In parallel, qualitative points of view are focused on how and why something works, in order to shed understanding.

In the qualitative paradigm, study objects are dependent on researchers, who can interact with study objects to gather context-dependent observations . Which is impossible in the quantitative paradigm; Researchers act outside the object of study and the context is controlled or assumed to be stable.

The qualitative paradigm explores, describes or produces theory , particularly for uncertain, sensitive and socially dependent notions, for human motivations that the scientific method cannot explain.

Qualitative paradigm characteristics

Qualitative research is useful when the potential answer to a question needs an explanation , which cannot be answered with a yes or no.

The qualitative paradigm deals with cases rather than variables (as does the quantitative paradigm) and with understanding discrepancies rather than deducing the mean of responses. Qualitative research often uses interviews, focus groups, case studies, and open-ended questions to find those answers. The qualitative is interested in the perspective and what the subject under study has to say.

Qualitative research differs from quantitative research because it produces hypotheses rather than hypothesis tests. In education, qualitative research is interested in understanding how to learn, from small samples, focusing on its object of study. When explaining a phenomenon or making comparisons based on small groups of students, it only seeks the restricted understanding of such problems, it does not generalize to other populations.

In sum, the most important characteristics of the qualitative paradigm are:

  • Seeks to explore hypotheses.
  • The investigation is partially structured.
  • Your system is flexible to get more answers.
  • Take into account contextual variables.
  • It aims to describe the variation or differences between phenomena.
  • Also describe and explain relationships.
  • It is responsible for describing individual variables or group norms.
  • Ask open-ended questions. The answers are necessarily explanatory.
  • The data obtained are generally presented in text.
  • The study plan can evolve during its development. The questions of the participants depend on the answers.
  • The paradigm is best for complex questions, in the case that simple answers (yes or no) are unlikely.
  • It can be easier to design and finance.
  • The information you get is almost always useful if the research is well done.
  • The paradigm is not so dependent on sample sizes.
  • The results are not generalized, they are considered specific to the environment and the participants (object of study).

Use methods such as observation , field notes, reflective journals, interviews, small groups, and documentary and material analysis. Interviews are usually recorded in audiovisual format. They are then transcribed for analysis.

Use methods to interpret the information . For example, in the field of Art History, a formal analysis of a group of works of art is used to determine their aesthetic characteristics. Thus, the strategies to ensure rigor in data collection and its subsequent study are based on the relevance of the selected works, their relevance and pre-existing studies.

Unlike the quantitative paradigm, subjective responses are critical findings , not only in the responses of the participants but also in the reactions of the observer. Continuing with the example of the work of art, we turn not only to written sources, but also, depending on their relevance, to interviews with historians or art experts.

The unique or atypical answer has value in contributing to the understanding of the experience of others, and therefore individual responses are not lost in aggregation of findings or in the development of research group consensus. Qualitative methods understand that the researcher and his study subjects, most of the time, retain a closeness and not the alleged distance of the alleged objectivity.

Considering that qualitative research is carried out in the field , that is, the subjects and their interactions are approached in their own contexts, ethical problems may arise.

How is it related to psychology? 

For example, the study of child abuse and maltreatment in a particular community requires the informed consent of the parties involved. Qualitative research, which is used to discover why and how these sensitive problems occur, involves the potential expression of opinions, feelings and personal information . Due to their ethical implications, studies of this type must be accompanied by a confidentiality statute that protects participants from moral and ethical harm.

Qualitative research tries to make your findings credible. Every solid project starts from a review of the existing knowledge on the matter in question. However, most qualitative paradigms are not interested in an absolute truth, but in different perspectives of a concrete reality of the context. 

Notions of validity and reliability emerged from the quantitative tradition, and therefore their accepted definitions are considered inconvenient for qualitative exploration. On the contrary, the notions of precision, credibility and transferability are essential points of the evaluation of a qualitative study.

The reliability of a qualitative research is obtained through the coherence of the information , which is studied through transparent research stages and research findings, although it might be thought that reliability is of little relevance for qualitative inquiries.

Returning to the example of the study of child abuse and maltreatment in a particular community, reliability and rigor would be based on finding the conditioning factors and solutions to the problem . In this sense, the reliability and rigor of the results of this type of research would be centered on the use of various data sources (for example, observation, interviews and recordings), various methodologies or multiple researchers to study the issues. The general objective is to minimize the potential bias of the researcher and at the same time guarantee the veracity of the interpretation of the same.

In conclusion

Both quantitative and qualitative approaches have strengths and weaknesses. Research in Social Sciences, Art Sciences, for example, go to each type or approach according to its relevance, but undoubtedly, the qualitative conclusions are explanatory , argumentative, more useful for the analysis of historical, philosophical, literary problems , etc.

The best approach to use will always depend on the type of question asked (problem statement), and the most effective methods are best suited for that approach.

Qualitative research penetrates the corners where the scientific method cannot provide answers. There are realities in which science is more useful, in others, as in the world of sensitivity and culture , qualitative approaches are needed.

Likewise, the analyzes carried out in the field of art theory and history are necessarily qualitative. The rigor of the investigation is based on the management of pre-existing information , the correct use of documentary references, the contribution to the specific knowledge of the subject in question.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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