Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research - Everything Explained

Written by

Katy Grace

8 mins read
qualitative vs quantitative research

Qualitative and quantitative research are two ways to find out more about something. It is hard to know which type you should use when you write a research paper. Qualitative might be good for some things, but quantitative can also be good.

Choosing between qualitative and quantitative research can be challenging. You might not know the differences. However, they are different.

Qualitative research is when you ask people to answer questions about their opinion.

Quantitative research is when you look at numbers to see if the data matches what you were expecting it to be like. But there are a lot of similarities too.

Read the blog to know further bout this topic.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Definition

There is a difference between these two types of research. And therefore, both of these are used for different purposes. Let us have a look at the definition of these in detail.

Quantitative Research

In quantitative research, you can use numbers and graphs to test or confirm theories. Quantitative research can help researchers make generalizable facts about topics they want to publish and show others what they found out.

Quantitative methods rely on measurable data collection. This can be done through experiments, observations recorded as numbers, or mobile surveys with closed-ended questions to gather the information you need for your study topic.

For example, you can see how a company has grown. You can do this by looking at the annual growth of a company, or you can look at the increase in the number of employees with foreign technical education. These are both statistics that show how much a company has grown.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is a type of research that can be expressed in words. It is used to discover how people understand different concepts, thoughts, or experiences. Qualitative research allows you to gather a lot of information about what people think and feel about a topic.

Qualitative methods are used to do interviews with questions that are open-ended. They are also used to get observations of people or places. These observations are described in words.

Finally, qualitative researchers might read literature reviews and explore concepts and theories.

When to Use Quantitative and Qualitative Research?

In deciding which type of research you should use, you should think about whether you want to test or confirm something.

  • If you want to test a theory or hypothesis, then use quantitative data.
  • If you want to understand concepts, thoughts, and experiences, then use qualitative data.

For most research topics, you can choose a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach. You should decide the type of approach that is best for your topic.

It depends on different things, like if you are taking an inductive or deductive research question. What kind of research you are doing (experimental, correlational, or descriptive); and practical considerations like time and money. These are some of the qualitative and quantitative questions that must be kept in mind while opting for research.

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Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research - Differences

Quantitative and qualitative research collect and analyze different kinds of data. They allow you to answer different types of research questions. Here is an extensive difference between both:

Quantitative Research Qualitative Research
It focuses on test theories and hypotheses. It focuses on exploring ideas and generating new theories or hypotheses.
It analyzes the data through statistics and math. It analyzes by summarizing, categorizing, and interpreting.
The data is expressed in graphs, numbers, and tables. The data is expressed in words.
It requires many respondents. It only requires a few respondents.
It uses multiple-choice questions, but they are close-ended. It uses open-ended questions.
Key terms used: measurement, testing, replicability, objectivity. Key terms used: context, complexity, understandability, subjectivity.

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Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research - Data Collection Methods

Quantitative and qualitative data can be collected in many ways. You need to choose one that will answer your question.

For example, you can ask people questions or watch them do things. Then the data is either numbers (e.g., using rating scales or counting frequency) or words (e.g., with open-ended questions or descriptions of what you observed).

Have a look at the types of methods both types of research uses:

Quantitative Data Collection Method

Following are the methods to collect quantitative data:

  • Surveys
  • It is a list of questions. Some are open-ended, and others are closed-ended. It is given to the people who will answer it. The researcher gets feedback from them.

    Surveys can have both types of questions too!

  • Secondary Data
  • This includes collecting and analyzing data that was not found in primary research, such as company accounts and other related numerical data.

  • Observational Data
  • This type of research shows what happens in a natural environment, and the variable can't be controlled.

  • Experiments
  • Experiments are when researchers do things to try to find out the cause and effect. Then, the researcher controls the variables and sees what happens.

  • Content Analysis
  • It is a way to tell what people are talking about. For example, you can record words and themes in texts to see how people talk with each other.

Qualitative Data Collection Method

Following are the methods to collect qualitative data:

  • Interview
  • In-depth interviewing is a face-to-face session. You talk to experts about different concepts. In this interview, there are different questions. Some are structured,semi-structured, and unstructured.

  • Focus Group
  • Discussion groups are small groups of people who talk about a topic. They think about it, and then they find out more.

  • Ethnography
  • Ethnography is when you study a group of people closely. You will want to spend a lot of time with them and watch how they behave and what they do.

  • Case Study
  • Case studies are a study of a person, group, or organization. They are in-depth and cover all aspects.

  • Literature Review
  • A literature review is a detailed survey of things other people have written about.

This qualitative and this quantitative methods are more structured. They provide a detailed explanation of the arguments in your research.

Related: 6 Major Types of Qualitative Research Methods Used Commonly

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How to Analyze Quantitative and Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data or quantitative data doesn’t prove anything on its own. You have to analyze it. The way you do that is different for each type of qualitative and quantitative data.

Analyzing Quantitative Data

Quantitative data is based on numbers. The commonalities or patterns in the data are discovered through simple math or more advanced statistical analysis. Graphs and tables are often used to show the generalized results of the study.

Excel, SPSS, or R are sued to calculate quantities such as:

  • Average score
  • Number of times an answer is given
  • Correlation or causation between two or more variables
  • Validity and reliability of the result

Analyzing Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is harder to use than quantitative data. It has text, images or videos, instead of numbers. Some ideas for analyzing qualitative data are:

  • Qualitative Content Analysis: It is about tracking words and phrases in a text. It can find the meaning of the words.
  • Thematic Analysis: It is when you look closely at the data to look for patterns and themes. You can do this by asking questions about what you see in the data.
  • Discourse Analysis: It is a way to study how people communicate. This includes messages and topics.

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Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research - Examples

Here are some well-versed examples for your consideration to provide you with sufficient help in conducting research.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in HealthCare (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in HealthCare

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Nursing (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Nursing

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Psychology (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Psychology

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Sociology (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research in Sociology

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Marketing (PDF)

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Marketing

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a mixed research method?

In mixed methods research, you use both types of data i.e. qualitative and quantitative. You can use qualitative data or quantitative. You need to use a research question and a hypothesis before you start, though.

How do I decide which research method to use?

You can do qualitative or quantitative research. If you want to test a hypothesis, then do quantitative research. If you are exploring ideas and meanings, then do qualitative research.

What is data collection?

Data is collected in systematic ways. That means people take observations and measurements of things. Data is used by many different groups, like academics, governments, and businesses.

Which is easier qualitative or quantitative research?

Quantitative studies are easier to do than qualitative ones. With quantitative data, participants do not need to answer many questions.

It is easy for the person doing the study. They might get results soon. Qualitative studies require lots of input from people being studied, so it might take longer to get results.

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