A qualitative/ quantitative divide permeates much of social psychology, however I think this divide should be seen as a continuum. At one end is quantitative research marked by sharply defined populations and variables, and well-specified theories and hypotheses. At the opposite end of this continuum is qualitative research, which rejects all quantitative research stands for; there are no notions of population and variables and definitely no hypothesis testing!
Johansson and colleagues (2003) conducted a study to compare primary care and hospital physician’s appraisal of quantitative and qualitative research abstracts, with the goal to analyse what they put into ‘scientific accuracy’. Findings indicated that quantitative research were assessed as more scientific rather than clinically relevant whereas the opposite was true for qualitative research abstracts.
Shuval and colleagues (2011) noted that qualitative research appears to be gaining acceptability in medical journals, suggesting that it is wither being considered as more scientific, or that the idea of scientific accuracy is less important and other realms of research are equally as valid.
In order to combat the apparent lack of scientific methods for qualitative research, lately researchers have combined both types of methods when collecting their data. Moffatt et al. (2006) found that combining quantitative and qualitative methods leads to a more ‘robust study’ and is much more useful than relying purely on type as it leads to richer data.
Referring back to the question, I don’t think that qualitative research is scientific as a whole. Yes there are parts of it that seem scientific for example certain measurements used can act as a reliability indicator if the study is ever to be replicated. However on the whole qualitative studies are hard to replicate, as generally they concern one person (case studies) or a very small selective sample of people.
On the whole I don’t think of qualitative research as scientific although I do think it holds a much stronger position than ‘mere relevance’.