Beyond qualitative/quantitative structuralism: the positivist qualitative research and the paradigmatic disclaimer

Abstract

Scholarly discourse concerning the distinction between qualitative and quantitative approach often takes on a binary character. This structuralism undermines the legitimacy of positivist qualitative research, a unique method frequently used in social science research. In the present essay, the author argues that positivist qualitative research should be recognized as a unique form of qualitative research. The essay focuses on three issues: (a) the paradigmatic roots of positivist qualitative research, (b) the components of positivist qualitative research as an empirical research approach, including a typology for mapping various manifestations of partially and fully positivist qualitative research, and (c) incorporating a paradigmatic disclaimer section in articles to improve the quality of qualitative research, positivist and non-positivist alike. Recognizing positivist qualitative research as a distinct and legitimate type can improve qualitative studies in social science.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Chesebro and Borisoff (2007) also noted common characteristics that placed the emphasis on the “researcher as participant;” I omit a discussion of these characteristics because their inclusion among the basic functional aspects of general qualitative research is contested, and they appear linked only with certain qualitative approaches.

  2. 2.

    Guba and Lincoln (1994) used the term “postpositivism” to describe this paradigm. This term, however, is also commonly used in the literature to refer to a category of qualitative traditions, such as hermeneutics, critical theory, and poststructuralism, which reject positivist assumptions (see Prasad 2005). To avoid confusion, the present essay uses the term "positivism."

  3. 3.

    Positivist-inspired notions of credibility find their way into naturalistic and ethnographic research (LeCompte and Goetz 1982; Lincoln and Guba 1985). These notions have become mainstream in qualitative research (e.g., Marshall and Rossman 2006; Huberman and Miles 2002; Patton 2002).

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Berkovich, I. Beyond qualitative/quantitative structuralism: the positivist qualitative research and the paradigmatic disclaimer. Qual Quant 52, 2063–2077 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-017-0607-3

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Keywords

  • Paradigm
  • Paradigmatic disclaimer
  • Positivism
  • Positivist qualitative research
  • Qualitative research