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Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

1418 words (6 pages) Essay in Sociology

04/10/17 Sociology Reference this

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DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATITVE RESEARCH METHODS

What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research? In a nutshell, quantitative research generates numerical data or information that can be converted into numbers. Qualitative Research on the other hand generates non-numerical data.

Many times those that undertake a research project often find theyare notaware of the differences between Qualitative Researchand Quantitative Research methods. Many mistakenly think the two terms can be used interchangeably.

S“o what is the difference between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research?

Qualitative Research is primarily exploratory research. It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. Qualitative Research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinions, and dive deeper into the problem. Qualitative data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some common methods include focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations. The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected to fulfill a given quota.

Quantitative Research is used to quantify the problem by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. It is used to quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables – and generalize results from a larger sample population. Quantitative Research uses measurable data to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research. Quantitative data collection methods are much more structured than Qualitative data collection methods. Quantitative data collection methods include various forms of surveys – online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations.

Snap Survey Software is the ideal solution for a Quantitative Research tool where structured techniques such as large numbers of respondents and descriptive findings are required. Snap Survey Software has many robust features that will help your organization effectively gather and analyze quantitative data

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research Methods

The similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods can be confusing. Here is a simplified explanation.

  • In quantitative research, you generally end up with data reduced to numbers, which are analyzed using statistics. Frequently, quantitative research is used to support or expand a theory that already exists.
  • In qualitative research, you usually don’t end up with numbers. Instead, you will describe and analyze a phenomenon using words. Sometimes, qualitative research is used to develop new theory that didn’t exist before.

The first thing to do in any research project is conceive, clarify and write a research question. After composing the research question, you compose a research plan, which includes the research method or methods you think would be best in answering the question.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research

What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research? In a nutshell, quantitative research generates numerical data or information that can be converted into numbers. Qualitative Research on the other hand generates non-numerical data.

Only measurable data are being gathered and analyzed in quantitative research.

Qualitative research focuses on gathering of mainly verbal data rather than measurements. Gathered information is then analyzed in an interpretative manner, subjective, impressionistic or even diagnostic.

Here’s a more detailed point-by-point comparison between the two types of research:

1. Goal or Aim of the Research

Quantitative Research on the other hand focuses more in counting and classifying features and constructing statistical models and figures to explain what is observed.

 

Qualitative

Quantitative

Hypothesis

Broad

Narrow

Description

Whole picture

Focused

Type of Research

Exploratory

Conclusive

2. Usage

Qualitative Research is ideal for earlier phases of research projects while for the latter part of the research project, Quantitative Research is highly recommended. Quantitative Research provides the researcher a clearer picture of what to expect in his research compared to Qualitative Research.

 

Qualitative

Quantitative

Phase

Early

Late

3. Data Gathering Instrument

The researcher serves as the primary data gathering instrument in Qualitative Research. Here, the researcher employs various data-gathering strategies, depending upon the thrust or approach of his research. Examples of data-gathering strategies used in Qualitative Research are individual in-depth interviews, structured and non-structured interviews, focus groups, narratives, content or documentary analysis, participant observation and archival research.

On the other hand, Quantitative Research makes use of tools such as questionnaires, surveys, measurements and other equipment to collect numerical or measurable data.

4. Type of Data

The presentation of data in a Qualitative Research is in the form of words (from interviews) and images (videos) or objects (such as artifacts). If you are conducting a Qualitative Research what will most likely appear in your discussion are figures in the form of graphs. However, if you are conducting a Quantitative Research, what will most likely appear in your discussion are tables containing data in the form of numbers and statistics.

5. Approach

Qualitative Research is primarily subjective in approach as it seeks to understand human behavior and reasons that govern such behavior. Researchers have the tendency to become subjectively immersed in the subject matter in this type of research method.

In Quantitative Research, researchers tend to remain objectively separated from the subject matter. This is because Quantitative Research is objective in approach in the sense that it only seeks precise measurements and analysis of target concepts to answer his inquiry.

Determining Which Method Should Be Used

Debates have been ongoing, tackling which method is better than the other. The reason why this remains unresolved until now is that, each has its own strengths and weaknesses which actually vary depending upon the topic the researcher wants to discuss. This then leads us to the question “Which method should be used?”

If your study aims to find out the answer to an inquiry through numerical evidence, then you should make use of the Quantitative Research. However, if in your study you wish to explain further why this particular event happened, or why this particular phenomenon is the case, then you should make use of Qualitative Research.

Some studies make use of both Quantitative and Qualitative Research, letting the two complement each other. If your study aims to find out, for example, what the dominant human behavior is towards a particular object or event and at the same time aims to examine why this is the case, it is then ideal to make use of both methods.

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