I’m beginning an Independent study of qualitative methods under Carl Ratner, who is author of the book Cultural Psychology and Qualitative Methodology. Before advancing my understanding of methodology and underlying theory, I wanted to benchmark a few thoughts.
My attraction towards qualitative methods stems from the fact that behavior is observable and observable phenomena invites inference. Despite the solid empiricism of observational and interactionists approaches, qualitative methodology is a minority approach in the cognitive sciences. There exists among mainstream quantitative and experimental approaches an insistence in the supremacy of their methods. I am not against those approaches but I am against their monopoly of what constitutes scientific fact. I believe those approaches suffer a number of problems (e.g. artificial conditions, broad generalizations from experimental inference, an inability to determine causal variables with absolute certainty, inaccurate reductionism, etc). Surely, there is a place for naturalistic inquiry. It also seems to me that many of the problems of qualitative inference are also general to statistics and scientific-inquiry in-whole (e.g. inductive reasoning). It appears that the advantage of positivistic approaches (in the eyes of positivists) is their underlying logic of absolute determination. Can qualitative researchers certify fact? Absolutely. Nevertheless, positivists have standardized fact deduction and this standardization serves as a potent persuasion. All said; the beauty of science is that facts are changeable as evidence merits–qualitative approaches can add to and correct experimental/quantitative shortcomings as well as stand on their own.