Chapter 17: Qualitative research on family generations in changing East Asian societies
Social surveys producing ‘hard data’ or numerical statistical analysis may still be the dominant East Asian research method in social research. Different research questions, however, require different research methods and approaches, and thus either qualitative or quantitative approaches may be suitable methods of inquiry. At the same time, such a dichotomy of employing a qualitative or quantitative method may not be helpful in many social research contexts, since those methods often complement each other’s limitations; nonetheless, adhering to a strict dichotomy of either qualitative or quantitative research can produce limited research findings. Therefore a combination of both approaches is vital for issues in social research to be fully explored and understood (Critcher, Waddington and Dicks, 1999). Survey research, for example, may not provide the contextual detail necessary for the interpretation of the responses, and thus it is useful to include the ethnographic basis of the statistics produced by the survey (Gephart, 1988). A qualitative method of inquiry is an effective tool to reveal many aspects of social life and to construct meaningful knowledge (or understand the way in which the respondents construct meaning) which quantitative approaches would find hard to capture. Indeed, the strengths of the methodology lie in its power of interpretation, description and explanation of social phenomena rather than in its ability to generalize or answer causal questions (see, for example, Silverman, 2004; Yoshii, 2006; Stake, 2010).
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