To understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, you need to define three keywords: quality, quantity, and research. Quality is an uncountable level of excellence or an attribute that differentiates things or people, while quantity is a generic term used fundamentally to refer to the measurement of something. Research refers to the systematic study of or investigation into a source or material to establish facts or draw conclusions. The results of any research can be qualitative, quantitative, or both.
Therefore, qualitative research investigates materials or sources to come up with their attributes or descriptions. Quantitative research, on the other hand, is research done focusing on numbers and mathematical calculations.
There are some key differences between qualitative and quantitative research, mainly because their results are so different. Some fields prefer one type of research to the other, depending on what they were looking for. For example, scientists may prefer quantitative data, while sociologists may prefer qualitative data. Here are seven differences between the two:
Here is a tabular summary of qualitative vs. quantitative research based on the data:
As has been highlighted, qualitative research yields more textual data, i.e., that is non-numerical, while quantitative data yields numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers. Qualitative data is useful in the exploratory stages of any project, such as in the pilot stage of a project. It gives rise to the underlying thoughts, opinions, trends, and motivations. The qualitative analysis results can either be considered to be conclusive or serve as the basis for further research.
Qualitative research techniques make use of both structured and unstructured techniques. Some examples of qualitative research methods are individual research interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation. Iterative study designs can be applied whereby the questions asked and the data collected change depending on what is learned.
Because qualitative data is typically presented in words that contain in-depth information, data analysis involves reading numerous amounts of transcripts. The goal of qualitative data analysis is to uncover similarities and differences in the data. This analysis leads to the development of themes from the data and coming up with categories. In the past, qualitative data analysis was a tedious process involving many people and highlighting things in different colors, but more and more software are being coded to aid the process.
Here are the features that make qualitative research what it is:
Approach - The qualitative researcher is concerned with understanding the phenomenon under study through inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning refers to the derivation of general principles from specific observations.
Goal – Qualitative research focuses on the depth of knowledge (getting in-depth knowledge on a particular subject) and consequently generating a hypothesis.
Setting – Qualitative research is collected in a naturalistic environment.
Sampling – Qualitative research uses purposive sampling. That means the participants are selected because of their ability to illuminate a particular matter.
Data collection – Data is collected using focus groups, observation, and interviews.
Data analysis – Qualitative data analysis is iterative.
Here are some topics that would require qualitative research:
A poem analysis essay on poems by a particular author is an example of qualitative research task in a school setting.
Qualitative data can be used to come up with themes, similarities, and differences that come up in the data. Sometimes, it's used to generate a hypothesis that will then undergo quantitative research.
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As was mentioned, quantitative research deals with numbers and figures. Quantitative research is used to quantify attitudes, behavior, motivations, opinions, and other variables. The goal of quantitative research is to support or refute a hypothesis. The results can then be contextualized to the broader population.
Quantitative research methods are explicit on what is to be measured and how it is to be measured. For this reason, quantitative data collection is more structured than qualitative data. They typically use surveys, questionnaires, and structured interviews to collect data. The data collected should be generalized to the general population without significant discrepancies. Surveys are classified into two based on time:
The data collected from quantitative research is analyzed to formulate facts and uncover patterns that can then be generalized to the broader population. There are many quantitative data analysis methods. Here are five examples:
Here are the features that make quantitative analysis what it is:
Approach – The researcher is concerned with generalization, prediction, outcomes, and causal relationships. He derives these things from the data using deductive reasoning.
Goal – The goal of quantitative research is to discover the breadth of new knowledge of the subject under study. The other purpose is to test a hypothesis.
Setting – Quantitative research is conducted in a controlled environment, such as a clinical or laboratory setting.
Sampling – Quantitative research typically uses random sampling. It usually has larger sample sizes than qualitative research samples.
Data collection – Quantitative surveys and structured interviews are prevalent in quantitative research.
Data analysis - Statistical tests are done to come up with conclusions in quantitative research.
Here are examples of issues that would benefit from quantitative research:
Quantitative research is used to uncover the relationship between variables. If the data collected is to be used to make decisions, quantitative data forms a more solid basis than qualitative data.
Here is a side by side comparison of the qualitative vs. quantitative research features:
The two methods need different types of data, and therefore their research methods vary. This section will analyze some of the research methods used by each type of research.
Qualitative data must be richly detailed so that you have information to work with, to analyze. Some qualitative data collection methods include:
1) Controlled observation – The subjects under study are observed from within a controlled environment, such as a psych lab. In a controlled environment, the researchers can control some variables such as which participants will take place in the study, the place, time, and circumstances surrounding the research.
2) Naturalistic observation – Here, the participant's behavior is studied in their natural environment.
3) Participant observation – This is similar to the naturalistic observation in that the participants are observed in their natural environment. The difference is that the researchers insert themselves into the participants' environment.
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For quantitative data, certain variables have to be measured and later analyzed. For this reason, some data collection methods may be the same but be conducted differently. Three essential quantitative data collection methods are:
They can measure degree with responses such as:
Closed-ended questions can measure time using options such as:
A closed-ended survey can also have options such as yes, no, and maybe.
The point of closed-ended questions is to be able to quantify the responses quickly.
Mixed methods are becoming more common as time goes by. This is because researchers understand that by selecting one type of research over the other, they miss out on the valuable insights they would gain from the method they did not use. They, therefore, use both research methods for their projects and have reports that incorporate both types of data.
The type of research you chose depends on a few factors. The table below will highlight the factors and what kind of research to do in each case:
Other factors that determine what type of research to conduct include the sample size, how much money and time you have, and the availability of data, among others.
When you are researching to learn something, you have to determine what type of research will yield the best results for you. This means you have to understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research and how they are conducted. The results you want will also help you decide what method to go to. If you have the resources, mixed research will give you the best of both worlds.
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