Critical Evaluation of the Qualitative Approach

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Introduction

The critical evaluation aims to discuss the aspects of methodology illustrated in two selected articles by establishing the relationship between the articles and the relevant material from the course. To be able to achieve this purpose, the evaluation shows the writer’s comprehension of the different research methodologies taught in the lectures by assessing how the research methodology has contributed to learning through evidence of understanding. Further, the adhered structure for the critical evaluation will constitute an introduction of the qualitative approach, quantitative approach, and an illustration of the methodology of the selected two articles. Understanding how the pluralistic framework is beneficial to the counseling process and concepts in general and a conclusion is also developed as part of the structure.

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Qualitative Approach

Qualitative research refers to a market research approach that concentrates on obtaining information via conversational or open-ended communication. Carpenter and Suto (2008) define qualitative research as “a journey of discovery beginning with a problem which seeks to illuminate ‘meanings.'” The qualitative research approach goes beyond what people think. It incorporates understanding why people think the way they do and involves gathering and analyzing non-numerical information to comprehend experiences, opinions, and concepts (Creswell and Creswell, 2018, p. 45). As such, the research approach can be helpful in the generation of new research ideas or the collection of profound insights. Further, based on Denzin and Lincoln (2000, p. 2), qualitative research entails a complicated yet interconnected body of assumptions, concepts, and terms. Further definitions of qualitative research show that it is an approach that is specifically interested in observations made by the ordinary person and describes the lives of the people (Silverman, 2000, p. 70). Eight features of qualitative research exist and are categorized into three.

The first set of features attributed to qualitative research constitutes the following. One, the fundamental concern of qualitative research is to search for and interpret meanings that people attach to their actions (Packer, 2018). The concern contradicts the traditional statistical association or decryption linked to variables. Two, the research approach allows investigators to treat actions as part of the entire context and procedure instead of something that can be isolated and extracted (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). From the second set of features attributed to qualitative research, Packer (2018) shows that by using this research approach, a researcher is searching to encounter the social phenomena as they occur naturally by observing the event rather than making it happen. The fourth feature of the research approach allows researchers to operate at a less generalized and abstract explanation level (Yin, 2016). Fifth, the method employs a small sample instead of a large representative sample.

Qualitative research is established from the third set of features to focus on life’s details. Moreover, as Yin (2016) shows, this research type allows for ideas to emerge instead of beginning with a theoretical hypothesis utilizing inductive technique rather than deductive logic. Lastly, Mason (2002) shows the ultimate purpose of a qualitative study is to investigate a particular situation as perceived by the participants. Aside from the features associated with a qualitative research type, certain assumptions exist that distinguish the research approach from quantitative research. First, the social world cannot be researched without a social account. Second, value and facts cannot be separated, and third, the process involved in studies is not neutral (Trainor and Graue, 2013, p. 67). Fourth, the best way to study life is by living it, fifth, people and the world are complicated, and lastly, reality exists in multiple versions.

Quantitative Approach

The quantitative research approach refers to an investigator gathering and analyzing numerical information. The system is also responsible for finding averages and patterns, making predictions, generalizing outcomes, and testing causal relationships with the broader population (Wilson, 2019). Since quantitative is the opposite of qualitative research, it is widely used to emphasize objective measurements and mathematical, statistical, or numerical data analysis via questionnaires, polls, and surveys (Babbie, 2010, p. 17). Moreover, the approach can manipulate pre-existing data by using computational systems. The research approach concentrates on collecting statistical information and explaining it relative to a specific phenomenon or generalizing it across a collection of individuals (Muijs, 2010, p. 88). In other words, quantitative research is best associated with objective stance, logic, and numbers.

When employing this research approach, the primary objective is to determine the association between an independent and a dependent variable in a population. Attention is given to unchanging, detailed, numerical, and convergent information instead of divergent reasoning. As Grix (2004) shows, quantitative research entails the generalization of various ideas on a specific research issue in a free-flowing or spontaneous manner. Depending on the study design utilized, a researcher may employ experimental or observational research techniques. When the former method is used, an investigator can identify an existing relationship between any two variables and determine the nature of the association. Purposed to identify and isolate the specific variables, Babbie (2016) shows an investigator can highlight the variables located within a study’s framework. Furthermore, McNabb (2008) argues the significance of utilizing experimental study design lies in controlling the environment where risks associated with the research are involved. The same control occurs in other variables where an account is established on the relationships identified.

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Features that are associated with quantitative research constitute the following. One, information is collected via structured research instruments like questionnaires (Blaxter et al., 2003, p. 61). Two, larger sample sizes are responsible for the results since they represent the population. Three, the study’s outcome can be repeated or replicated since the results are highly reliable. Four, researchers use clearly defined questions that govern the sought-after answers (Barker et al., 2015, p. 109). Five, every aspect of the research is carefully designed before data gathering. Six, statistical or numerical data is often arranged in figures, charts, tables, or any other non-textual form. Seven, study’s can be used when generalizing ideas more comprehensively and predictably for future reference, or they can be used when investigating causal associations between established variables (Bryman, 1998). Lastly, numerical information can be gathered using tools and techniques such as computer software and questionnaires.

Methodology

Using the survey monkey tool, a cross-sectional online survey was conducted in the first article. Smith et al. (2014, p. 4) on Evidence-based research and practice: attitudes of reproduction nurses, counsellors, and doctors selected their participants upon seeking ethical approval from the Western Sydney University and Australia’s Fertility Society (FSA). The sample participants in this quantitative study were clinical practitioners and constituted counsellors, nurses, and medical doctors (Smith et al.,2014, p. 4). The rationale employed by the researchers in selecting the participants for the research was founded on their likelihood to interact with patients. The participants had a higher potential to influence how patients participate in clinical studies.

In quantitative research approaches, it has been established that emphasis on objective measurements and mathematical, statistical, or numerical data analysis via questionnaires, polls, and surveys is central in gathering primary data. The sentiments by Babbie (2010, p.17) manifest in the works of Smith et al. (2014) since the researchers administer a questionnaire to collect feedback from the sampled participants. Further, the use of questionnaires is critical in primary data collection since, through it, the researcher(s) can examine the participants’ attitudes (Harkiolakis, 2019, p. 106). The same application is associated with Smith et al. (2014), and in addition to examining contributors’ attitudes, the investigators could also use the questionnaires to identify research engagement barriers and enablers. The latter was significant in the study since it enabled Smith et al. to examine possible differences in the three professional groups (2014, p. 4). They used questionnaires that included information about participants’ residence, professional qualification, age, gender, and research qualification details.

Quantitative research can manipulate pre-existing data using computational systems. The study’s outcome can be repeated or replicated based on the third feature since the results are highly reliable. In the article by Smith et al. (2014), the employed research approach utilized questions that had been used in past studies (Roxburgh, 2006, p. 109). The awareness attributed to the survey scale contained three autonomous scale measures that were used in evaluating the attitude of the contributors. The significance of the awareness scale was to help the researchers comprehend participants’ confidence and perspective about the study. Further, as per McSherry et al. (2006, p. 538), the investigators also utilized the awareness towards understanding participants’ knowledge of the research procedure and the support they would provide to ensure the study was successful. Through a five-point Likert scale, the established statements of the questionnaire were rated.

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When a study’s measures are replicated in several ways, and the results are the same all the time, then reliability is established. According to Kirk and Miller (2005), reliability in any survey is the measurement’s reproducibility degree. In quantitative approaches, the degree of reproducibility can be achieved using a test-retest-consistency, equivalent forms, internal consistency, and inter-rater-art two raters. Through these types of reliability, an investigation’s consistency is tested over time, across different identical instrument versions, items measuring the same things do that, and two raters rating uniformity (Walker, 2011, p. 46). The use of a five-point Likert scale was central in testing this study’s reliability. The questions used in the questionnaires addressed two significant issues, barriers and motivators to research and related activities, and the researchers asked the participants, using free-text responses (Smith et al., 2014, p. 4). However, on specific items, participants had an opportunity to answer yes, no, or uncertain to the items used in the research.

Sampling refers to the procedure where an investigator specifies and obtains contributors to the research. Daniels (2011) further defines a sample as a population’s subset wished to be studied in research. Therefore, a model needs to represent the population’s interest. With it being a true representative of the people, what is true in the sample will reflect the truth in the population (McBride, 2020, p. 93). The sampling procedure follows the subsequent steps; specifying the target population, selecting the sampling process, and determining the sample size. Nonetheless, as per Gerrish and Lathlean (2015), the above steps can be iterative. The sampling procedure’s significance lies in need to employ an interested group for research purposes and must be generalized.

Important to understand in the sampling process is the need to determine the research sample, how to scale down the selection, what the inclusion or exclusion criteria might be, and why. The major sampling approaches constitute random, probability, and non-probability (Maree, 2020, p. 34). Smith et al. (2014, p. 4) utilized a convenience sample comprised of all health care professionals categorized as counsellors, nurses, and medical doctors. Through an email sent from the FSA, the participants were given the link to the study.

In the second article, the researcher aimed to emerge themes through direct engagement with the gathered information. Widdowson (2012) on the Perceptions of psychotherapy trainees of psychotherapy research employed an exploratory research design. Through the invention, the researcher investigated the perspectives of psychotherapy trainees on research, particularly on the focus group. Two study groups were held at Transactional Analysis (TA) psychotherapy training institutes to explore the participants’ opinions (Widdowson, 2012, p. 179). According to Braun and Clarke (2006), thematic analysis is significant in analyzing data gathered for qualitative research. The generated themes were lack of knowledge, negative research perceptions, comprehending and enhancing how therapy works, developing the profession, and need for practical research training. The other themes included benefits, expectations clarity, negative impact protection, support needs, contributions, belonging, and acknowledgments, and improved professional development (Widdowson, 2012, p. 181). The research was performed as part of the author’s doctoral studies with Leicester University, with the ethical approval being obtained from the university’s research ethics committee.

The author employed the international understanding of the TA psychotherapy training from the institution’s context, which was primarily taught in private institutions. The two sampled institutions were both private institutions based in the U.K. and taught a four-year clinical training in TA psychotherapy at Master’s degree level resulting in a Certified Transactional Analyst (CTA) qualification (Widdowson, 2012, p. 180). The TA was European Association-accredited psychotherapy for Transactional Analysis and was registered by the Psychotherapy Council for the United Kingdom (UKCP) (Widdowson, 2012, p. 180). The training was clinical practice-oriented; however, in line with the requirements established by the UKCP, the participating students had to have completed training in fundamental research methodology. Nonetheless, as part of the training, the students didn’t need to participate in a research project (Widdowson, 2012, p. 180). The eventual evaluation for the CTA examination was a written dissertation or review that included a prolonged clinical case study alongside an oral examination based on the student’s clinical work audio recording.

The research was open to all the 131 post-foundation year trainees. No additional inclusion or exclusion criteria were utilized in the study apart from the trainees of the two TA psychotherapy training institutes. The trainers were responsible for publicizing the investigation two months before the commencing of the survey when the audio recording took place for the focus groups. An information sheet constituting a list of six questions responsible for guiding them on the discussion was provided for the interested group. The advance provision of the information sheet allowed the interested participants to reflect on the questions before the focus group date (Widdowson, 2012, p 180). However, only sixteen contributors responded to the participation invitation. The respondents were then categorized in two with each group having eight participants that were diverse in terms of age, gender, and ethnic background (Widdowson, 2012, p. 180). The respondents reasonably represented the demographics of the two institutions.

The author was the moderator and researcher of the two focus groups in the article. Krueger and Casey (2000, p. 5) show that a focus group is a carefully planned discussion series to obtain participants’ perceptions on a specific interest area within a non-threatening and permissive environment. Widdowson’s mandate was to clarify the respondent’s reflections, views, and thoughts while maintaining focus on the meeting. Krueger and Casey (2000) argue that no correct answers exist in focus groups, and based on that, every opinion is considered significant and valid. Every participant’s feedback was recorded from the meeting, and the process lasted for an hour each and was smooth (Widdowson, 2012). For data analysis, the feedback was both recorded and transcribed.

How Research adds to the Wider Concept of Counselling Practice

Regardless the research approach, qualitative or quantitative, used in the wider concept of counselling practice, ethical guidelines associated with counselling and psychotherapy must be followed. Based on Bond (2004, p. 9), integrity in research constitutes competence and honesty as well as robust ethical commitment in every work aspect. As such, McLeod (2011, p. 167) asserts that “research in counselling is assured by a set of ethical rules pertinent to every human subject investigation types. It also produces a unique problem and dilemma that is characteristic to counselling process nature” (McLeod, 2011, p. 167). Despite the differences in qualitative and quantitative research, the two adds to the wider concept of counselling practice since the findings accrued from the approaches inform the entire practice.

How Research Adds to the Wider Concept of Counselling Practice

Qualitative and quantitative research findings offer the practice with readily accessible information relative to certain content of counselling and psychotherapy issues and broader associated research developments. Moreover, published findings from the research approaches provide supportive and informative information to the practice. Based on Fleet and Mintz (2013, p.48), research findings have the potential to inform counselling and psychotherapy. In their example, in an instance of a counsellor that was working with a patient continued to cause harm to himself regardless of the on-going therapy. The outcome of the effect made the counsellor feel uncertain of his proficiency. Upon reading the analysis, the counsellor realized all five counselors that participated in the study encountered a range of intense emotions and distress, an issue that was familiar with counselors working with self-harm patients.

Regardless the research approach, qualitative or quantitative, used in the wider concept of counselling practice, ethical guidelines associated with counselling and psychotherapy must be followed. Based on Bond (2004, p. 9), integrity in research constitutes competence and honesty as well as robust ethical commitment in every work aspect. As such, McLeod (2011, p. 167) asserts that “research in counselling is assured by a set of ethical rules pertinent to every human subject investigation types. It also produces a unique problem and dilemma that is characteristic to counselling process nature” (McLeod, 2011, p. 167). Despite the differences in qualitative and quantitative research, the two adds to the wider concept of counselling practice since the findings accrued from the approaches inform the entire practice.

Qualitative and quantitative research findings offer the practice with readily accessible information relative to certain content of counselling and psychotherapy issues and broader associated research developments. Moreover, published findings from the research approaches provide supportive and informative information to the practice. Based on Fleet and Mintz (2013, p.48), research findings have the potential to inform counselling and psychotherapy. In their example, in an instance of a counsellor that was working with a patient continued to cause harm to himself regardless of the on-going therapy. The outcome of the effect made the counsellor feel uncertain of his proficiency. Upon reading the analysis, the counsellor realized all five counselors that participated in the study encountered a range of intense emotions and distress, an issue that was familiar with counselors working with self-harm patients.

How Pluralistic Framework Benefits Research Approaches, the Counselling Process, and Counselling Concept in General

Pluralism in the health care setting entails employing more than one research approach in a study. Through the framework, an investigator is allowed an opportunity to triangulate where quantitative and qualitative information towards the production of results with maximum reliability and validity (Gonzalez, 2020, p. 56). Similarly, the benefits of pluralism in researching the counseling process alongside the counseling concept, in general, are utilizing a range of approaches like group interviews and participant observations (Burck, 2005, p. 239). In the evaluation performed, the use of a pluralistic framework would result in questionnaires and focus groups.

Through pluralism, it becomes possible for researchers to employ the strengths of one research approach where those of the other approach are limited. Based on Frost et al. (2011) and Burck (2005, p. 242), pluralistic methods permit the investigators to perceive what different research methods offer. Where the strengths of quantitative research fail, qualitative research promotes the disciplinary grounds in the distinct disciplines used in the latter approach to analyze the gathered information (Wickens, 2011, p. 158). In terms of the counseling process and concept, employing the pluralistic framework allows researchers to heighten transparency in the used research procedure. Lastly, the significance of a pluralistic framework in the counseling process and concepts in general lies in how different aspects are reflected about a phenomenon (Frost et al., 2011, p. 96). The framework allows for rendering differentially visible phenomena via several methods that produce detailed and richer comprehension of the investigated topic.

Conclusion

Based on the structure for the critical evaluation, the ground covered has introduced the qualitative approach. An illustration has been established on what entails this research approach. From the quantitative approach, the review has provided knowledge on how the approach differs from the qualitative approach by highlighting the features that define the approach. Further, an illustration of the methodology of the selected two articles has been provided while connecting how the articles relate to the relevant materials across the course. Lastly, an understanding of how the pluralistic framework is beneficial to the counseling process and concepts in general.

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PsychologyWriting. "Critical Evaluation of the Qualitative Approach." November 19, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/critical-evaluation-of-the-qualitative-approach/.