Qualitative and quantitative perspective in research


This essay will be focussing of the use of complementary and alternative medicine in European Union (EU), (Eardley et al., 2012), and will be discussing the  future research theoretical perspectives and contributions from a qualitative and quantitative theoretical perspective.

Research according to Hek and Moule (2006) is defined as a systematic approach of gathering information for the purposes of answering questions and solving problems in the pursuit of creating a new knowledge about health and social care. Whereas a more detailed definition was by Saks and Allsop (2012), which in the context of health and social care research and in the answering of questions to develop new knowledge depends on a researcher’s paradigmatic positioning related to their understanding of knowledge, which is their epistemological (philosophical) standpoint. Health research using a number of methods may be under taken  not only to gain knowledge in health, illness and disease in contemporary society but also for policy makers too (Punch, 2005). The first thing a researcher will do is to search the knowledge of what have been done and what haven’t been done yet before they can determine the type of study to performed (Hek & Moule, 2006).

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The research process from the beginning to the end is important in order to be able to answer any research problems identified from the researcher’s epistemological standpoint (Punch,2005).The research question should bea signpost for research and justifiable for a number of reasons such as being beneficial to specific clients or patients, the community or society as a whole; It should lead to practical application, theoretical understanding and / or to formulate policies (Hek & Moule 2011). Health and social care professionals experiencing or observing a particular issue in their practice may generate and research a problem at a local level or research problem can be priorities by the department of Health for the purpose of finding new treatments such as cancer or mental health (Hek & Moule, 2006).

The use of CAM has rapidly increased in western industrialised nation over the last 25 years; Practiced by doctors and non-medically qualified individuals in the European Union (Eardley et al., 2012). There were a few studies conducted which were based on a nationally representative samples, the vast majority was small and of poor quality. Herbal medicine was the most frequently reported CAM use (Eardley et al., 2012). Sampling techniques are relevant to research and involves the collection of information on which decisions can be made and conclusions drawn (Hek & Moule, 2006). The samples in this article were of the general population of the nation, random or representative and on a defined geographical area. Although representatives were taken to mean score,and samples selected from the general public with no evidence of a systemic difference in demographics compared to the general population(Eardley et al., 2012).

Results and analysis shows after excluding ineligible studies which 187 studies were assessed in detail for eligibility (Eardley et al., 2012). No eligible studies were found in the grey literature. At the end only 87 studies reported the prevalence of CAM use was included in the final analysis; the prevalence of CAM use also varied across and within EU countries 0.3 – 86%; the samples sizes also varied from small studies of 92 participants to population surveys of 57,717,200; it was difficult to locate any general population data on the use of CAM for 64% EU member states.  It was also difficult to pool the data in a meta-analysis due to its heterogeneity   (Eardley et al., 2012). Users of CAM were also mainly women another example like the article by Smith, Collins, Cyna & Crowther (2009) states that the use of CAM or complementary and alternative therapies have been seen to be used by many women for the management of labour pains. It was said to have found that acupuncture and hypnosis have helped alleviate pains during labour. Other types of complementary therapies such as massage, relaxation, acupressure, music and others did not show enough evidence in the benefits and its effectiveness of labour pain reliefs; The of  use complementary and alternative therapies are becoming more popular due to many women wanting to avoid pharmacological and invasive pain relieve methods; The use of herbal medicines was commonly reported for CAM which was due to people with conditions such as musculoskeletal problems were the most reported condition; others used it because of disappointment with western medicine being the reasons of its use, however it is difficult to give definitive conclusion due to lack of enough studies to report the correct data (Eardley et al., 2012).

The prevalence of CAM across Europe was problematic to estimate because studies are generally poor and heterogeneous (Eardley et al 2012). From studying the article, for use in the formative presentation it was discovered that there were some gaps in knowledge in relation to the application of CAM care; Patients’ opinions have not been research thoroughly and this has reduced and limited understanding of CAM care, such as a study would have proved beneficial. This shows that the use of complementary and alternative medicine or therapies are becoming more popularly used by women but there is still not sufficiently evidence to show the exact amount of people using it. The EU CAM studies were inconclusive as not all data was received due to poor quality of the studies and has made it difficult to put it in meta-analysis. There was data from less than half the EU member states and in some countries being represented by 1 or 2 papers which made the use of CAM an unclear picture. The need for a valid questionnaire on CAM use will show more accuracy of data collection and enable data pooling also there should be investigations into why there are more women using CAM than men and also the side effects should be thoroughly investigated (Eardley et al., 2012).

The literature reviewed in this article enables the researcher to identifythe kind and appropriate research questions still to be asked(Hek and Moule, 2006). In order to identify the different research questions it is necessary to know the different types of research. Explorative research is when there is little knowledge known or the ‘what’ about the phenomenon; in this case the research question is a broad aim. The appropriate paradigm is derived from the epistemological believes and values (Saks & Allsop, 2012). Whereas the descriptive research question is that some knowledge about the phenomenon but is still incomplete and the research question is generally posed as the aim and objective and to describe in more detail what the researcher is trying to achieve (Hek & Moule, 2006). The explanatory research sees it as having a lot of information from previous research about the chosen topic and the goal in this type is to explain the ‘why’ of the phenomenon. Why researchers believe what will happen will happen and research to prove what will happen (Hek & Moule, 2006). This article indicates that the level of knowledge currently known in relation to CAM would be viewed at a descriptive type and therefore both qualitative and quantitative approaches are appropriate and selected as to which most appropriate to answer the research question (Punch, 2005).


The qualitative research question is aimed at the philosophical beliefs of interpretation drawn from social action theory, symbolic interaction that is a complex and broad research which is viewed as holistic. In this instance it is also about developing more knowledge; and also inductive reasoning is use meaning general to particular (Moule & Hek, 2011). Data analysis is done in a way that data is retrieved from individual interpretation; therefore uniqueness of each study is respected (Hek& Moule, 2011). According toStevens, Schade, Chalk and Slevin (1993) states that interpretivism is used in qualitative research in which human behaviour can be understood when the circumstance and cognitive process which give rise to it are thenstudied; Qualitative method is often the techniques of data collection such as in-depth interviews and principle observation to gain understanding and knowledge of what is yet to be known. Qualitative research is characterized by western science as rationalism and/ or empiricism which distinguishes between a ‘real world’ which can be observed and a ‘world of perception’, which means people’s beliefs and experiences (Stevens et al., 1993). Within the article it is felt that there are gaps in knowledge. By assessing the article of CAM use, it is believed that the qualitative question to ask will be; In what way are patients’ (Men) feelings towards the effectiveness of the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In what ways can men be encouraged to use complementary and alternative medicine? (Eardley et al., 2012). It is researchers plan to use epistemological and ontological standpoints to question the feelings of patients who have undergone CAM care (Eardley et al., 2012).  This end with gap in knowledge regarding CAM, that means men’s view and side effects associated with CAM use.


Quantitative research according to Punch(2005) is derived from the positivismwhich is drawn from functionalism (sociological theoretical concept as to how the world is seen);according to (Stevens et al., 1993) states that positivism was founded by Anguste Comte who believed that the same research principles can be applied to social sciences; It is a research that is aimed to demonstrate that reality is constant and can be objectively the measured to explain (the why)and provide objectively the scientific fact or ‘truth’. The ontological perspective in this case is that reality is consistent and objectively measured and therefore generalizable. Quantitative research is concise, narrow and therefore viewed as reductionistic that means not broad and not much is said in-depth; basis of knowledge is development; aims to explore/ explain causes and effect relationships; data is statistical analysis which is aimed at describing findings and to indicate findings of statistical significance that may then be generalised to the ‘total population’ which the study perspectives relates to (Saks & Allsop, 2012). The questions that can be ask to gain quantitative results can be as; on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the least of beneficial and 10 being the most; how will you rate your CAM experience? In this answer it will be expected to be narrow view andreductionistic as previously explained. The application of deductive reasoning is also used in the quantitative research (Eardley et al., 2012).

In conclusion this essay shows that there has been complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) used in the European Unionregions; however there was not enough evidence on CAM prevalence and its effectiveness (Eardley et al., 2012). In the CAM article it has also shown that its use was based on women avoiding the use of pharmacological and invasive pain relieve methods whilst the use of herbal medicines were reported to most commonly used whilst others used CAM because they were disappointed with Western medicines(Eardley et al., 2012). The users of CAM were also majority women and there were no evidence of the side effects associated with the use of CAM (Eardley et al., 2012). The European Union CAM use was not research properly and poor quality of data was presented for having less than half the European Union member states (Eardley et al., 2012). Therefore, the gap in knowledge was found to be why men do not use CAM and what side effects if any are associated with CAM (Eardley et al., 2012).

The CAM research done was considered to be descriptive and that means the researcher needs to consider both qualitative and quantitative by using positivist paradigm and interpretivism to understand real life experiences from individuals in order to develop the theoryand knowledgeof what is yet to be known (Punch, 2005). This has shownthat there is value and/or importance for both qualitative research and quantitative research in developing the future of research evidence in relation to CAM use (Eardley et al., 2012).



Eardley, S., Bishop, F. L., Prescott, P., Cardini, F., Brinkhaus, B., Santos-Rey, K., . . . Lewith, G. (2012). A systematic literature review of complementary and alternative medicine prevalence in EU. Forsch Komplementmed, 19, 18-28

Hek, G. & Moule, P.(Eds.). (2006). Making sense of Research: An introduction for health and social care practitioners. (3rded.) London: Sage publication.

Hek, G. & Moule, P. (Eds.). (2011). Making sense of research: an introduction for Health & Social Care  Practitioners.(4th ed.). London: Sage publication

Punch, K. (Eds.). (2005). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and Qualitative approaches. (2nded.). London: Sage publication.

Saks, M. & Allsop, J. (Eds.).  (2012). Researching Health: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods.(2nded.). London: Sage publication.

Smith, C.A., Collins, C.T, Cyna,A.M.,& Crowther,C.A.. (2009) Complementary and alternative therapies for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic. Wiley online library. Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003521. Doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003521.pub2.

Stevens, P.J.M, Schade, A.L, Chalk, B & Slevin, O.D’A. (1995). Understanding research: A scientific Approach for health care professionals. Edinburgh: Campion press limited

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