Abstract

Erin Kimball and Kendra L. Koivu, "Varieties of Qualitative Methods", February 2011

Throughout the recent debate between qualitative and quantitative research over the last decade, most scholars have treated qualitative methods as a homogeneous entity that is in stark opposition to quantitative approaches. We argue that the bifurcation of methodological approaches into these two camps obscures important differences between approaches within qualitative methods. In this article, we seek to rectify this treatment by exploring the different ontological and epistemological assumptions that underlie the various techniques of qualitative methods. Rather than a "tale of two cultures," we argue that the practice of qualitative methods within the social sciences is actually a tale of many sub-cultures, and that these dissimilarities lead to widely different prescriptions for best practices. Specifically, we argue that there are four "ideal types" represented within qualitative methods: Quantitative Emulation, Eclectic small-N research, Set-theory, and Empirical Interpretivism. We also identify the red thread that holds qualitative methods together, that is, a close engagement with the cases, and two techniques practiced by all four types: counterfactual analysis and an iterative approach that encourages the researcher to sequentially evaluate the general and the specific.

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