Theory, Methods, and Literature--Oh My

This post has been "updated" (see Parental Homework Help Leads to LOWER Academic Achievement and Three Schools Before Thanksgiving)

What I read this week:

---Part One of Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches by W. Lawrence

School Personnel's Perceptions of Family-School Communication: A Qualitative Study

Parent Involvement, Cultural Capital, and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Children

My goal:

The second two sources were both articles; one qualitative and one quantitative. Both dealt with the issue of parental involvement and the effects on children's success (with a focus on success in school). My goal was to compare and contrast them and offer any insights about them based on what I read from Neuman this week.


Parent Involvement, Cultural Capital, and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Children

This was the first of the two articles that I read, and this was a quantitative study. Not only did the authors describe the study as being quantitative, but there were several clues in the research to indicate this as well. At a glance, a reader can see charts and graphs characteristic of a quantitative study, and these results were from chi square tests and t tests, among other methods. Data collection was through surveys with mutually exclusive answers that did not allow for extended response. By the way, one flaw that I noticed about the study was that the researchers had the parents fill out a survey on how involved they were in their children's lives, which probably meant that parents were biased because they wanted to feel good about themselves as involved parents. The data may have been inaccurate since the only method of survey-taking was self-assessment by parents of themselves. When the researchers discussed results at the end of the article, they made overarching conclusions applied to all (or at least most) members of a group based on similar situation of group members (race, etc).

School Personnel's Perceptions of Family-School Communication: A Qualitative Study

There's no mystery here; it's obvious that this is a qualitative study just by looking at the title. Let's say that there was no mention of the word "qualitative"--could the reader still figure it out? First of all, data gathering was based on interviews and extended response questions that allowed participants to elaborate on their answers. There were many direct quotes from these interviews throughout the article. In the discussion part of the article, the researchers mentioned common "themes" that arose, instead of analyzing specific statistics. Most importantly, the researchers admit that "the teachers and families portrayed here are not necessarily representative of the general population..." (page 15). All of these details place this study in the "qualitative" category.


Yes, these studies are different because they are fundamentally different approaches to researching a topic (even if it's a very similar topic). However, there are several ways that these studies are similar. Both obviously began with a literature review, and discussed their review in the beginning of their articles. Both define their variables and state their hypotheses as well as their plans to investigate the hypotheses. Both discuss how they went about their data collection, and the findings that resulted. Most importantly, both performed an acceptable way of doing research. That's the main idea that I learned this week: qualitative and quantitative studies differ in several important ways, and not all sociologists agree with one of the other, but both ways of researching can help add more knowledge to the field, and that's what's most important.


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