Quantitative Vs Qualitative Research

Published by at August 13th, 2021 , Revised On September 21, 2021

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research is associated with numerical data or data that can be measured. It is used to study a large group of population. The information is gathered by performing statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques.

Quantitative research isn’t simply based on statistical analysis or quantitative techniques but rather uses a certain approach to theory to address research hypotheses or questions, establish an appropriate research methodology, and draw findings & conclusions.

Characteristics of Quantitative Research

Some most commonly employed quantitative research strategies include data-driven dissertations, theory-driven studies, and reflection-driven research. Regardless of the chosen approach, there are some common quantitative research features as listed below.

  • Quantitative research tests or builds on other researchers’ existing theories whilst taking a reflective or extensive route.
  • Quantitative research aims to test the research hypothesis or answer established research questions.
  • It is primarily justified by positivist or post-positivist research paradigms.
  • The research design can be relationship-based, quasi-experimental, experimental, or descriptive.
  • It draws on a small sample to make generalizations to a wider population using probability sampling techniques.
  • Quantitative data is gathered according to the established research questions using research vehicles such as structured observation, structured interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and laboratory results.
  • The researcher uses statistical analysis tools and techniques to measure variables and gather inferential or descriptive data. In some cases, your tutor or dissertation committee members might find it easier to verify your study results with numbers and statistical analysis.
  • The study results’ accuracy is based on external and internal validity and authenticity of the data used.
  • Quantitative research answers research questions or tests the hypothesis using charts, graphs, tables, data, and statements.
  • It underpins research questions or hypotheses and findings to make conclusions.
  • The researcher can provide recommendations for future research and expand or test existing theories.

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is a type of scientific research where a researcher collects evidence to seek answers to a question. It is associated with studying human behavior from an informative perspective. It aims at obtaining in-depth details of the problem.

As the term suggests, qualitative research is based on qualitative research methods, including participants’ observations, focus groups, and unstructured interviews.

Qualitative research is very different in nature when compared to quantitative research. It takes an established path towards the research process, how research questions are set up, how existing theories are built upon, what research methods are employed, and how the findings are unveiled to the readers.

You may adopt conventional methods, including phenomenological research, narrative-based research, grounded theory research, ethnographies, case studies, and auto-ethnographies.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

Again, regardless of the chosen approach to qualitative research, your dissertation will have unique key features as listed below.

  • The research questions that you aim to answer will expand or even change as the dissertation writing process continues. This aspect of the research is typically known as an emergent design where the research objectives evolve with time.
  • Qualitative research may use existing theories to cultivate new theoretical understandings or fall back on existing theories to support the research process. However, the original goal of testing a certain theoretical understanding remains the same.
  • It can be based on various research models, such as critical theory, constructivism, and interpretivism.
  • The chosen research design largely influences the analysis and discussion of results and the choices you make. Research design depends on the adopted research path: phenomenological research, narrative-based research, grounded theory-based research, ethnography, case study-based research, or auto-ethnography.
  • Qualitative research answers research questions with theoretical sampling, where data gathered from the organization or people are studied.
  • It involves various research methods to gather qualitative data from participants belonging to the field of study. As indicated previously, some of the most notable qualitative research methods include participant observation, focus groups, and unstructured interviews.
  • It incorporates an inductive process where the researcher analyses and understands the data through his own eyes and judgments to identify concepts and themes that comprehensively depict the researched material.
  • The key quality characteristics of qualitative research are transferability, conformity, confirmability, and reliability.
  • Results and discussions are largely based on narratives, case study and personal experiences, which help detect inconsistencies, observations, processes, and ideas.
  • Qualitative research discusses theoretical concepts obtained from the results whilst taking research questions and/or hypotheses to draw general conclusions.

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When to Use Qualitative and Quantitative Research Model?

  • The research title, research questions, hypothesis, objectives, and study area generally determine the dissertation’s best research method.
  • If the primary aim of your research is to test a hypothesis, validate an existing theory or perhaps measure some variables, then the quantitative research model will be the more appropriate choice because it might be easier for you to convince your supervisor or members of the dissertation committee with the use of statistics and numbers.
  • On the other hand, oftentimes, statistics, and a collection of numbers are not the answer, especially where there is a need to understand meanings, experiences, and beliefs.
  • If your research questions or hypothesis can be better addressed through people’s observations and experiences, you should consider qualitative data.
  • If you select an inappropriate research method, you will not prove your findings’ accuracy, and your dissertation will be pretty much meaningless. To prove that your research is authentic and reliable, choose a research method that best suits your study’s requirements.
  • In the sections that follow, we explain the most commonly employed research methods for the dissertation, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methods.

Now that you know the unique differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods, you may want to learn a bit about primary and secondary research methods.

Here is an article that will help you distinguish between primary and secondary research and decide whether you need to use quantitative and/or qualitative methods of primary research in your dissertation.

Alternatively, you can base your dissertation on secondary research which is descriptive and explanatory in essence.

Limitations of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research Qualitative research
  • The experiments can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • It requires an extensive statistical analysis which can be difficult for the researchers who are unaware of statistical tools and their usage.
  • It provides only proved or unproved results.
  • It provides limited outcomes due to the structured method.
  • It requires a lot of planning to get accurate results.
  • Unlike a quantitative method, the qualitative method’s data cannot be analyzed mathematically, and it cannot be easy to analyze the obtained data.
  • It provides personals opinions, judgments, and observations rather than accurate results.
  • It cannot be easily replicable.
  • In qualitative research, like ethnographic research, researchers need to spend a lot of time being patient and tolerant with the community. It’s also challenging to get access to the community.

About Carmen Troy

Troy has been the leading content creator for Research Prospect since 2017. He loves to write about the different types of data collection and data analysis methods used in research. Troy has also been lucky enough to work as an editor for BBC.