The Ultimate Guide to Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

While working on a research project, we often wonder whether our project is qualitative or quantitative in its approach. Although their objectives and applications overlap in many ways, there are significant differences between them. In this article, we’ll learn about Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research.

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What is Qualitative Research?

In qualitative research, different types of non-numerical data is gathered and evaluated to better understand ideas, views, or experiences (such as video, text, or audio). In-depth details about a situation can be discovered or ideas for fresh study concepts can be sparked through it. Quantitative research, which includes gathering and analyzing numerical data for statistical analysis, is the antithesis of qualitative research. The humanities and social sciences frequently employ qualitative research in sociology, anthropology, education, history, health sciences, etc.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Given that you have invested time and money in gathering your data, analysis of it is essential. You don't want to end up in the dark after making so much effort. Thus, it is a necessary step. There are no predetermined guidelines for assessing this material; the first step is comprehending its two basic methods.

Deductive Strategy

The deductive method entails examining qualitative data following a specified framework. The questions might serve as a roadmap for researchers as they analyze the data. When a researcher has a good sense of the expected replies he or she will obtain from the sample population, they can utilize this quick and simple method.

Inductive Method

Contrarily, the inductive method does not rely on preconceived guidelines or a predefined framework. It is a more extensive and time-consuming method of qualitative data analysis. Researchers frequently employ an inductive technique when they have little or no knowledge about the investigated phenomena.

Key Features Of Qualitative Research

  1. Content evaluation. Verbal or behavioral data must be categorized to classify, summarize, and tabulate.
  2. Analyzing narratives Utilizing the context of each case and the varied experiences of each respondent, this strategy entails reformulating the narrative that respondents have provided. In other words, narrative analysis is the researcher's reinterpretation of the original qualitative data.
  3. Analysis of discourse. A technique for analyzing all kinds of written material, including naturally occurring speech.
  4. Framework examination. This more sophisticated approach includes a number of steps, including familiarization, choosing a thematic framework, coding, charting, mapping, and interpretation.
  5. Solid theory. This approach to analyzing qualitative data begins with developing a hypothesis by examining a single example. 

Limitations of Qualitative Research

  1. The individual talents of the researcher are a major determinant of the research's quality, and the researcher's biases and quirks might have a greater impact.
  2. Rigor is more challenging to uphold, gauge, and prove.
  3. Analysis and interpretation take a lot of time because of the volume of data.
  4. Within the scientific community, it is occasionally not as well understood and accepted as quantitative research.
  5. The respondents' replies may be impacted by the researcher's presence, which is frequently unavoidable in qualitative research.
  6. Problems with confidentiality and anonymity might arise when disclosing findings
  7. Visually describing findings might be more time-consuming and complex.

Advantages Of Qualitative Research

1. Understand The Attitudes

Consumer behavior is frequently malleable. Businesses may be left wondering what will happen to them if something happens unexpectedly. Qualitative research methods offer a plausible explanation for why a person's attitude could change.

2. It Generates Content

Even for a seasoned marketer, developing new methods to convey outdated material may be challenging. The qualitative research methodology enables the collection of real thoughts from certain socioeconomic demographics.

3. It Reduces Costs

Comparatively speaking to other research techniques, qualitative research employs a smaller sample size. This is a result of the fact that each participant is asked for more data. Less expensive research is associated with smaller sample sizes. This method of study not only saves money but it also has the potential to yield quicker findings. This is one of the greatest research methods now accessible if data is required rapidly for a crucial decision.

4. Offer Insights Unique To A Certain Sector

The two key elements for retaining customers are relationships and engagement. To communicate with their core demographics in a way that is as accurate and authentic as possible, modern organizations may employ qualitative research to uncover fresh insights that help advance these two essential elements.

5. Enables Creativity To Act As A Catalyst

Facts are frequently preferred above views in research. Instead of innovation, it wants observations. Unlike standard research, qualitative research follows a distinct path. Using this format, respondents won't seek to answer questions in a way that would suit the researcher, which tends to introduce bias into the collected data.

6. Ongoing, Open-Ended Process

Many people have a conditioned, skimpy response that they develop out of habit. Researchers can go further into these behaviors to uncover the real facts that a subject might offer by using the qualitative research technique. It has access to the emotional information that influences how we make decisions.

7. Takes Into Account Human Experience

Facts are crucial. Statistics can reveal patterns. The human experience, however, cannot be disregarded. Two people will each perceive the identical incident differently due to their unique human experiences. The intricacy of this material may be included in the findings drawn from the gathered study by conducting qualitative research.

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What is Quantitative Research?

The process of gathering and interpreting numerical data is known as quantitative research. In addition to identifying trends and averaging data, hypotheses can be formulated, causality can be examined, and findings can be extrapolated to greater populations. A comparative study, which gathers and examines non-numerical data, is known as quantitative research (e.g., text, video, or audio). The scientific and social sciences, including biology, chemistry, psychology, economics, sociology, and marketing, frequently employ quantitative research.

Key Features of Quantitative Research

The goal of descriptive research is to describe the current situation of a chosen variable. The purpose of these studies is to offer systematic data regarding phenomena. The researcher typically does not start with a hypothesis but is more likely to do so after gathering evidence. The hypothesis is tested through the analysis and synthesis of the data.

Using statistical data, correlational research aims to quantify the strength of a link between two or more variables. Relationships between and among various facts are looked for and understood in this design style. While this kind of study will spot trends and patterns in data, it does not go as far as to show the reasons behind the observed patterns.

The goal of causal-comparative/quasi-experimental research is to identify the causal links between the variables. Although there are some significant variations, these designs are extremely comparable to actual studies. The effects of an independent variable on the dependent variable are measured, but the investigator does not change the independent variable. The researcher must take advantage of naturally occurring or pre-existing groupings rather than create them randomly.

The scientific method, also known as real experimentation, is used in experimental research to determine the cause-and-effect link between the many study-related factors. The actual experiment is frequently viewed as a laboratory study, although this is not necessarily the case; the lab environment has no bearing on it.

Limitations of Quantitative Research

The fact that quantitative research techniques only provide a surface-level understanding of a phenomenon and ignore test-takers and testers' experiences as well as what they mean by certain terms is one of its limitations.

Advantages of Quantitative Research

1. Can Be Examined and Tested

To do quantitative research, thorough experimental planning and the capacity for universal test and result replication are essential. As a result, the information you collect is more trustworthy and less subject to debate.

2. Clearly Stated Analysis 

The findings you get from collecting quantitative data can help you decide which statistical tests to run. As a result, your data interpretation and presentation of your findings will be simple and less vulnerable to mistakes and subjectivity.

3. Prestige

Many individuals don't comprehend the mathematics needed in such research; thus, it is valued and remarkable when it requires extensive statistics and data analysis. Technical innovations like computer modeling, stock picking, portfolio evaluation, and other data-driven business choices are connected to quantitative research.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research - A Comparison

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research

  • Qualitative research is a method of examination that helps you understand human behavior to find the way people think and feel. 
  • This method provides answers to how or why?  These methods are ideal when there are no fixed set of questions, but when a discussion is more useful to explore issues. 
  • The time expenditure is lesser on the planning end and more during the analysis phase.
  • Quantitative research aims more on the ability to compute numbers and perform statistical analysis. 
  • Quantitative research helps you generate numerical data and hard facts using statistical, logical, and mathematical techniques. 
  • In this method, the time expenditure is more massive in the planning phase and lighter on the analysis phase.

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When Do You Use Qualitative and Quantitative Research?

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research


  • Qualitative research is used if you want to understand concepts, ideas, thoughts, or experiences.
  • Quantitative research can be used to accertain or test something. It could be a theory or a hypothesis.

To understand qualitative research, let’s take the following example.

Qualitative Research Examples


Suppose a bookstore owner is looking for ways to improve their sales and customer outreach. An online community of readers who were the bookstore's loyal customers were interviewed, and related questions were asked, and they answered the questions. In the end, it was found that most of the books in the stores were for adults, and there were not sufficient books for children or teenagers.

By conducting this qualitative research, the bookstore owner realized what the shortcomings were and what were the feelings of the readers. Through this research, the bookstore owner can now keep books for different age groups and improve his sales and customer outreach. 

Qualitative Research Examples


Let's consider another example to understand quantitative research. Suppose any organization likes to conduct a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey. For that, a customer satisfaction survey template can be implemented. Through this survey, a company can collect quantitative data and metrics on the goodwill of the brand or the company in the mind of the customer based on several parameters such as product quality, pricing, and customer experience. This data can be gathered by asking a net promoter score (NPS) question, and matrix table questions that provide data in the form of numbers that can be analyzed and worked upon using various analytics tools.

Now, let’s talk about Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research based on how data is collected for these research methods. 

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Data Collection

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research

  • Data for qualitative research is collected by interviewing people, discussing with focus groups, building case studies, and ethnography.
  • The main idea is to understand and interpret social interactions. The respondent's opinions and feelings determine qualitative research discussions. Mostly, qualitative research is done face to face, most commonly in focus groups of 6-8 respondents. You can ask open-ended questions verbally to respondents or discuss among a group of people about a topic to collect opinions that can be used for further research.
  • Data for quantitative research can be collected from different surveys, experiments, observations, and content analysis. 
  • Surveys typically contain a list of close or multiple-choice questions that are distributed to a sample. With online survey tools becoming more available with advanced features, more researchers are adopting web-based survey collection for quantitative research. An experiment is a type of research in which you exploit one or more independent variables and find their effect on one or more dependent variables.  You can also collect data for quantitative research using content analysis.

Now, let’s talk about Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research based on the kind of research approaches they adopt.

Research Approach

Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research

  • Qualitative research is holistic, and it follows a subjective approach as the researcher is intimately involved.
  • Qualitative research generates both exploratory and highly descriptive knowledge. It de-emphasizes the causal models and explanations that have historically dominated the research process.
  • Quantitative research is particularistic, and it follows an objective approach as the researcher is not involved. 
  • Quantitative research also attempts to precise the observations and analysis on the topic to answer the inquiry.

For any research, sample data is important to derive meaningful information. Let’s understand Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research based on research samples.

Research Samples

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research

  • In qualitative research, a small sample size is selected to get a thorough understanding of the target concept. This is known as purposive sampling. It is also known as judgmental or subjective sampling. 
  • Judgmental sampling is a form of non-probability sampling in which researchers rely on their judgment when selecting the members of the population to participate in their study.
  • Quantitative research depends on random sampling, where a large representative sample is selected to induce the outcomes to the entire population. 
  • Here each sample has an equal probability of being chosen. A sample chosen randomly is meant to be an unbiased representation of the total population.

With that, let’s now get an idea about the role of the researcher in qualitative and quantitative research.

Role of the Researcher

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research


In qualitative research, the researcher & their biases may be known to the participants in the study, and characteristics of participants may be known to the researcher. 

In quantitative research, the researcher & their biases are not known to the study participants, and participant characteristics are deliberately hidden from the researcher.

Now, let’s learn about Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research based on the scientific methods that are used in these techniques.

Scientific Method

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research


  • Qualitative research is exploratory and follows a bottom-up approach as the researcher generates a new hypothesis and theory from the data collected. 
  • It is used to get an idea of the underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It also provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research.
  • Quantitative research is conclusive and follows a top-down model as the researcher tests the hypothesis and theory with the help of data. 
  • It is applied to generate findings that are practically useful in reaching conclusions or decision-making. The results of conclusive studies generally have specific uses. Conclusive research design gives a way to verify and quantify findings of exploratory studies.

Analyzing Data

Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research


  • The methods and techniques used for qualitative research are qualitative content analysis, thematic analysis, and discourse analysis.
  • Content analysis is a research technique that is used to find patterns in recorded communication. Thematic analysis carefully examines the data to identify the main themes and patterns.
  • Data Analysis for quantitative research is carried out using tools like IBM SPSS, R, and MS Excel.
  • Simple mathematics or advanced statistical analysis is used to discover hidden trends and unseen patterns in the data.

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Final Report

Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research

  • The final report of qualitative research has a native report with contextual description and direct quotations from research participants.
  • The final report of quantitative research has statistical findings with correlations, comparisons, and other significant measures.


You may prefer to use only one type of research within a study, but the data generated from the research might not provide the desired results. To implement an unbiased research project that will provide accurate and meaningful insights, it is advised to consider both qualitative and quantitative research methods to get the right results. After reading this article, you would have learned the major differences between qualitative and quantitative research. 

If you want to learn more about different research techniques or how they impact your data and data analysis, then check out our extensive course on Data Analytics. Get in-depth with your analysis and jumpstart your career as a Data Analyst.

Do you have any questions related to Qualitative vs Quantitative Research? If so, then please put it in the comments section of this article. Our team will help you solve your queries at the earliest. 

About the Author

Avijeet BiswalAvijeet Biswal

Avijeet is a Senior Research Analyst at Simplilearn. Passionate about Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, Avijeet is also interested in politics, cricket, and football.

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