What is qualitative and quantitative research? Learn about the differences and importance between qualitative and quantitative research

What is qualitative and quantitative research? Learn about the differences and importance between qualitative and quantitative research
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What is qualitative and quantitative research? Learn about the differences and importance between qualitative and quantitative research

Difference between qualitative and quantitative research

Quantitative research

Quantitative research is a method or approach of research that allows a researcher to test a hypotheses by collecting data. A qualitative research is mainly expressed in numbers and graphs. It also requires a larger sample size; these numbers are then analysed through mathematical and statistical analyses.

Qualitative research

On the other hand, qualitative research is a research method or approach that allows a researcher to formulate a hypotheses. It is opposite to quantitative research and is mainly used to yield data in words; it requires a smaller sample size. The data obtained in qualitative research are then analysed through summarizing, categorizing, and interpreting.

When to use quantitative research?

If the research goal is to confirm a test, theory or hypothesis, then a quantitative research approach is the most suitable and appropriate research method in this case.

When to use qualitative research?

If the research goal is to understand or explore a research idea or topic, then qualitative research is the best research method for such cases.

A third approach that combines both quantitative and qualitative research is called as the mixed-method.

Quantitative and qualitative research example

Let us see how the research applies in a concrete example:

For example, if the research question is about finding “How satisfied are students with their studies?” Let us see how both research approaches can answer this research question.

Quantitative approach: With the quantitative approach, a researcher can survey three hundred students at a university and ask questions that are pertinent to the research topic. For example, “On a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your professors?” After collecting the data, the researcher can perform a statistical analysis and draw conclusions that might look like this “On average, students rate their professors 4.4 out of 5.”

Qualitative approach: With a qualitative approach, the researcher can conduct interviews with 15 students and ask them open-ended questions such as “How satisfied are you with your studies?” or “What can be done to improve the study program?” Then transcribe the interview to find patterns or recurring themes.

Example:

Interviewee 1: more 1-on-1 guidance from professors would be very helpful.

Interviewee 2: I do like my program but one small thing to improve would be to have more personal help from my professors.

Interviewee 3: I think there is still a hierarchy between professors and students; if we can break that and have more guidance, that would be a big improvement.

Interviewee 4: Not much to criticise about this program except that there is not enough engagement between professors and students. I would love to connect more with my professors.

Interviewee 5: Sometimes it is hard to seek help from professors after class. If they can designate some time slots for a 1-on-1 session with students, that would be great.

For the mixed-method approach, the researcher has to first conduct interviews with the students, which falls under the qualitative approach. Through which, the researcher gains mere insights enough to derive a hypothesis. For example, the researcher learns from the interviews that “Students prefer individual assignments over group projects.” The researcher can then test whether this applies to a larger scale of students by using a research survey, which involves a quantitative approach. It is also possible to do the research the other way around, that is, start out with a survey to see the bigger picture, and then use interviews to understand the reasons.

How to collect quantitative data

1. Survey people online, in person or through a telephonic call

2. Conduct experiments

3. Use observation

How to collect qualitative data

1. Interview in person

2. Get focus groups

3. Do a case study

4. Do a literature review

The purpose of qualitative research

Qualitative research is mainly applied in the field of social sciences and works with non-numerical data in order to interpret the meaning retrieved from the data that can help to understand the aspects of social life through a study applied on a targeted population or an area.

Within the boundaries of sociology, qualitative research is primarily focused on the micro-level of social interaction that involves everyday life, while quantitative research is primarily focused on the macro-level of understanding trends and social phenomena.

Qualitative research began with the advancement in the field of sociology. This type of research method has long been in use by social scientists as it allows them to investigate and study the various behavioural patterns, actions, and interactive approach of people in society.

On the other hand, quantitative research has been considered useful by social scientists in helping to identify the relationship between variables, for example, the relationship between minorities and racial hatred. It is qualitative research that enables social scientists to decipher the co-relation between such variables and why they exist in society by directly targeting the source of the problem.

The purpose of quantitative research

Providing a relevant and relative context to explain the purpose of quantitative research. During the time of the pandemic, many doctors, scientists, researchers and health experts gathered to procure data from all over the world to determine ways to stop the coronavirus pandemic. This was one instance where quantitative research played a major role in collecting numerical data and run a numerical data analysis to obtain an immediate solution to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quantitative research is concerned with numbers and its relationship with events. It is an objective, systematic and empirical investigation of observable phenomena by using computational techniques. As quantitative research is objective in its approach, it seeks accurate measurements and analysis of target concepts by clearly defining research questions and problems. The researcher are thorough in advance with what they are trying to look for and solve. Structured research instruments specific to the research problem are used for accurate data collection. Numerical data are represented in tables, figures and graphs to summarize data collection. Quantitative research is helpful because of its flexibility on how much it allows the methods to be repeated and replicated due to its high reliability. The methods can be repeated to confirm findings and affirm their benefits.

Quantitative research is most commonly used as part of formal or conclusive research, but it is also sometimes used when conducting exploratory research.

1. A structured way of collecting and analysing data obtained from different sources.

2. It involves the use of computational, statistical, and mathematical tools to derive accurate and fast-track results.

The most important aspect of quantitative research is in its broad application across different fields unlike qualitative research. Quantitative research is more reliable and objective in nature. However, it utilizes statistics to generalise a finding that is commonly and general applicable, unlike qualitative research that derives specific results from a specific topic. Quantitative research often reduces and restructures a complex problem to a limited number of variables. It also examines relationships between variables and can establish cause and effect in highly controlled circumstances. Quantitative research is most effective in testing theories and hypotheses and assumes that a sample is representative of the population. It is reliable because  the subjectivity of the researcher in methodology is less recognized or considered. Quantitative research is easier to apply and is less detailed than qualitative data and may miss desired response from the participant.

Conclusion

Both qualitative and quantitative research techniques are fundamental methods of research that are most effective when applied to their respective subjects or discipline. The aforementioned will help readers to clearly understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research and help to determine the uses, relevance, application, area and purpose of these research methods.

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