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School of Applied Social Sciences

SASS Staff

Publication details for Professor Nicole Westmarland

Westmarland, N. (2001). The quantitative/qualitative debate and feminist research: a subjective view of objectivity. Forum: Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research 2(1): 13.
  • Publication type: Journal papers: academic
  • ISSN/ISBN: 1438-5627
  • Keywords: Feminist, Interview, Survey, Epistemology, Debate.
  • View online: Online version
  • Durham research online: DRO record

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Research methods are "technique(s) for ... gathering data" (HARDING 1986) and are generally dichotomised into being either quantitative or qualitative. It has been argued that methodology has been gendered (OAKLEY 1997; 1998), with quantitative methods traditionally being associated with words such as positivism, scientific, objectivity, statistics and masculinity. In contrast, qualitative methods have generally been associated with interpretivism, non-scientific, subjectivity and femininity. These associations have led some feminist researchers to criticise (REINHARZ 1979; GRAHAM 1983; PUGH 1990) or even reject (GRAHAM & RAWLINGS 1980) the quantitative approach, arguing that it is in direct conflict with the aims of feminist research (GRAHAM 1983; MIES 1983). It has been argued that qualitative methods are more appropriate for feminist research by allowing subjective knowledge (DEPNER 1981; DUELLI KLEIN 1983), and a more equal relationship between the researcher and the researched (OAKLEY 1974; JAYARATNE 1983; STANLEY & WISE 1990). This paper considers the quantitative/qualitative divide and the epistemological reasoning behind the debate before investigating two research methods, the statistical survey and the semi-structured interview, in respect of their use to feminist researchers. It concludes by arguing that different feminist issues need different research methods, and that as long as they are applied from a feminist perspective there is no need for the dichotomous "us against them", "quantitative against qualitative" debates.