Research is an important element in accounting where it, involve of quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. The essay will elaborate the differences and similarities between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms and their applicability in accounting. The comparison will be based on methodology, ontology, epistemology and conclusions obtained after research. Prior to the main discussion, key word will be defined.
According to Creswell 1998:74, define paradigms as a basic set of assumption that guides researcher inquiries aligns with the worldview perspective of paradigm. It was supported by Morgan 2007 where he supported paradigms as shared beliefs and the worldview. Quantitative research regarded as deductive approach towards research Rovai et al 2014.According to Jacob 1988:16, says “qualitative research has been characterized as emphasizing the importance of conducting research in a natural setting, as assuming importance of understanding participents. perspective and assuming that it is important to researcher to know perspective of the participants.
Firstly, methodology used, in quantitative and qualitative research are different, for example qualitative use case study while quantitative use questionnaires. Methodology is the broad term used to refer to research designs, methods approaches and procedures used in an investigation that is well planned to find out something Keeves 1997. According to Taylor 2010:159, says quantitative method is designed to, “provide objective description of phenomena and to demonstrate how phenomena can be controlled through specific treatment” and they make assumption. For example Rahim and Goddard 1998, conducted case study, on two State Religious Council SRC, in Malaysia, namely ASRC and BSRC to examine accounting practices in these two organizations by using interpretive methodology.
In addition, epistemological differences also make quantitative and qualitative research different. It has its own meaning in Greek where the word epistere means knowledge. In research epistemology is used to describe how we come to know something, how we know the truth and reality. Cooksey and McDonald 2011, put as what counts as knowledge within the world. It is concerned, basis of knowledge, its nature and forms and how it can be acquired and how it can be communicated to human. For instance quantitative research use positivist paradigm to obtain knowledge through experiments while qualitative uses interpretivist paradigms to obtain knowledge through interviews and case study, qualitative use subjective epistemology which means that researcher makes meaning of their data in their way of thinking Punch 2005.
In addition to above, authors emphasize the incompatibility of qualitative and quantitative approaches Guba and Lincoln 1989, “argue that mete-theoretical assumptions underlying the two approaches are so different that any reconciliation would destroy the philosophical foundation of each. ” For instance the business can use quantitative research when there is need for quantifiable understanding like, the percentage of customers prefer the new product produced. While qualitative can be used when improve understanding of the customer and, this called applied research.
More so, there is ontological difference between quantitative and qualitative research. In quantitative research paradigm, public events discussions and utterance, reflects reality. In private perceptions for instance beliefs seems to be reality as compared to qualitative research paradigm. People have different aims and attitudes therefore people can change local setting and the data seems to be unreality. People construct and act within a context, which structures and constrains that activity. For instance consumers can pretend to like a product a business developed but after the research activity they deny it. Distinction of paradigms underlying quantitative and qualitative research paradigms is important.
In addition, for some researchers consider qualitative research method as second class research Bluhm et al 2010. As a consequence, they are reluctant to employ this qualitative research method in conducting their researches, even some schools and universities are often oppose the qualitative research approach and consider it not enough for research. While quantitative research paradigms considered as first class research. According to Gummesson 2000, says “many business schools today are preoccupied with the mechanics of statistical techniques, believing that these techniques offer a highway to the advancement of knowledge and science.” Quantitative research paradigms, is still the most widely used approach in conducting research in the field of accounting. However, despite the fact that nowadays, the quantitative method is still widely used in conducting any research in accounting and business management studies, it must be acknowledged that over number of years, various current literatures indicates that there has been a significant amount of qualitative work produced by some well known accounting and management researchers Porcker 2003. Example includes Rahim and Goddard 1998, who conducted case study on two state religious in Malaysia, namely ASRC and BSRC to examine accounting practices in these organizations by using an interpretive methodology.
Lastly, quantitative result in numerical results while qualitative research approach results are subjective or non-numerical results. Qualitative methods and quantitative method conclusion are different. Qualitative research has been broadly defined as any kind of researches that produce findings not arrived at means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification which is based on constructivist. It recognizes that an extential objective reality cannot be captured. It argued that the underlying assumptions of qualitative approaches and quantitative approach have created differences which extend beyond philosophical and methodological debate among researchers. Each paradigm has been claimed as the best method if not the only method for doing research. In terms of quantitative methodology, the accounting field is suitable to applying method of multivariate statistical analysis and microeconomics. An example of research founded on statistical methodology one may take the issue of corporate disclosure. This research field in accounting is strongly connected with corporate governance-currently being readily investigated in various disciplines, corporate finance, law and economics.
However, there are some similarities between quantitative and qualitative research which include, both serve the purpose of research, both require participants, both gather data for analyzing and axiology differences.
Axiolocal of both qualitative and quantitative research approach are similar because both consider ethics. Axiology refers to ethical issues that need to be considered when planning a research proposal in accounting. It considers philosophical approach to make decisions of value or the right decision Finnis 1980. Ethics refers to shared norms and beliefs in an society, which need to be considered by a researcher to come up with code of conduct to approach the participants.
Both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms are systematic. Qualitative research method is interpretivist and quantitative method which grounded on positivist paradigms but both methods are systematic which means they can be reviewed to correct bias. For example the accounting department can review the data gathered for absentees of workers to correct the issue of error or bias. Both quantitative and qualitative methods require participants. Quantitative method use questionnaire to ask questions from respondents to obtain data Grazano and Roulin 2007.
Both methods follow process. Both paradigms follow process for example both consider methodology, ethics and determine the proposal. Both paradigms consider beneficence. The concept of beneficence means doing good. It is a role of researcher who has direct contact with participants to explain the purpose of the study and the benefits that will accrue from it. However, researcher should not exaggerate or even understate benefits. It is the examination of the benefits of the study that leads us to examine the concept of benefits in research which according to Mugenda 2003 is associated with Hippocratic. The major purpose of maintaining ethics in research serve and promote the welfare of people and avoid bias.
In conclusion, it can be noted that quantitative and qualitative research paradigms are different. As highlighted in the essay, quantitative and qualitative research are different in terms of methodology, epistemology, ontological difference but there are some similarities noted like axiological synonyms
Bluhm et al 2010. Qualitative research in management
Cooksey and McDonald 2011 Surviving and thriving of post graduates research
Creswell 1998:74. Qualitative inquires and research designs
Finnis 1980 Natural law and natural rights
Guba and Lincoln1987. What is this constructivist paradigm.
Gummesson. 2000. Qualitative research methods
Parker 2003 Qualitative research in accounting
Punch 2005 Introduction to social research “Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches”
Taylor 2010:159 Qualitative research method
Rahim.A and Goddard.A 1998 An interpretive inquiry of accounting in religious organization
Morgan 2007 Paradigm lost and Pragmatism Regain: Methodology Implications of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods