How to Critique a Quantitative & Qualitative Thesis

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Based upon two very different research methods, quantitative and qualitative theses require different approaches when receiving critiques. The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Tennessee defines quantitative methods as a "primarily deductive process used to test pre-specified concepts, constructs, and hypotheses that make up a theory." The ORAU alternately defines a qualitative thesis as a "primarily inductive process used to formulate theory." This means researchers rely upon "inferences of a generalized conclusion from particular instances." Quantitative theses tend toward the sciences, whereas qualitative tend toward creative theses.

Critiquing a Quantitative Thesis

Identify the appropriate sections in the essay. The University of Nebraska requires that a quantitative Master's thesis has the following sections: Preliminary pages, Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, and Conclusions/Discussion. Inform the researcher if any sections are missing.

Examine the purpose of the study as well as the stated hypothesis, each included in the introduction, to compare with the purpose of a quantitative thesis. A quantitative thesis is "more objective" and "provides observed effects" according to the ORAU. A quantitative hypothesis should not provide conjecture, but a measurable statement that can be proven with statistical, number-based research methods. Tell the researcher whether his or her introduction meets quantitative research standards.

Read through the methods. Within a quantitative thesis, the methods section should outline subjects, instrumentation, procedures, and statistical analysis. The University of Nebraska insists that "careful consideration should be paid to approval of methods and treatment of human or animal subjects." If the methods section is missing material, be sure to tell the researcher in your critique.

Critique the conclusions or discussions section. Quantitative results should be number-based. Although quantitative research provides "less in-depth, but more breadth of information across a large number of cases," the results should have "fixed response options," according to the ORAU. Determine whether the thesis being critiqued meets these requirements and suggest methods to meet the standards if the researcher has failed to do so.

Critiquing a Qualitative Thesis

Determine whether the qualitative thesis holds the appropriate sections. The University of Nebraska requires that a qualitative Master's thesis has the following sections: Title, Introduction, Methods, Review of Literature, and the Creative Piece. Inform the researcher if any sections are missing.

Determine whether the hypothesis and intended research are based on ideas that are "more subjective" and "describes a problem or condition from the point of view of those experiencing it," suggests the ORAU. A qualitative thesis should provide a "theoretical framework, research questions, or objectives" according to the ORAU. If any of these components are missing or provide only a shallow overview, provide feedback about how to make a more effective thesis.

Examine the research methods. The University of Nebraska asks reachers to provide a "research design" which "describes the methods that will be used to collect data or organize creative products," as well as a "description of the design" and the "criteria for judging credibility and trustworthiness of results (where relevant)." Qualitative researchers should also include "sampling" which "describes the aspects of the cases on which data collection and analysis will focus (where relevant)." If any of these aspects are missing, tell the researcher.

Critique the findings/discussion section. The University of Nebraska believes qualitative researchers should provide a "discussion of artistic/literary influences found and relation of the work to other writings/art in the field" within the concluding section. The outcome of a qualitative thesis should be results that are "less generalizable," and provide "more in-depth information on a few cases." If the researcher fails to do so, provide suggestions about how to improve research or conclusions.