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.

We’ll point out the differences between qualitative and quantitative research based on the below criteria:

  • What is Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research?
  • When do you use Qualitative and Quantitative Research?
  • Data Collection
  • Research Approach
  • Research Samples
  • Role of the Researcher
  • Scientific Method
  • Analyzing Data
  • Final Report

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research - A Comparison

Qualitative Research

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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

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Quantitative Research

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  • 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

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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

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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. 

Data Collection

Qualitative Research

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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

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  • 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

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Quantitative Research

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  • 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

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Quantitative Research

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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

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Quantitative Research

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  • 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

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Quantitative Research

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  • 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.
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Conclusion

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. 

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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