Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research 09 May 2013

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Which is better: qualitative or quantitative research? Both methodologies are equally important for researchers and they each serve a distinct purpose.

What is the Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?

Reserach Charts

Quantitative research is based on numerical analysis and statistics. Quantitative research can be used to quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables. For example, if 50 out of 100 people like Crest Toothpaste, you can formulate the fact that 1 out of 2 like it. There is typically large number of participants in a quantitative study. This helps to increases the credibility of the results. Quantitative research is also used to uncover patterns or correlations. For example, if women who take prenatal vitamins have a 40% less chance of giving birth to an autistic child then researchers can assume a direct correlation between prenatal vitamins and autism. Quantitative research methods include online surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies and systemic behavioral observations.

Qualitative research focuses on things you can qualify in words or pictures, instead of numbers. Research methods include focus groups, individual interviews and observations. In qualitative research, the participant size is typically smaller to accommodate in-depth questioning and close observation. Qualitative Research is said to be exploratory because one doesn’t have preconceived vision of what the study will deliver. It provides insight into an individual’s or group’s underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It can uncover trends and expose problems. For example, if 5 out of 10 participants do not like Crest toothpaste, the moderator could ask them why. If all five of them say that it tastes like metal, then they have uncovered valuable information. If the moderator were to give them a different taste samples to try and rate, the participants could help guide product improvements.

Pros & Cons of Qualitative and Quantitative Methodology

Pros & Cons

The pros for quantitative methods are that it is much quicker and cost-effective to execute. Quantitative analysis allows researchers to test specific hypotheses, and its statistical nature allows for generalization. The cons for quantitative research are that you don’t get specific details that you might be able to achieve with qualitative (ex. “It tastes like metal.”)

The pros for qualitative research are that it is great for exploratory purposes. There’s a depth and richness of information not possible with quantitative data alone. The downside to qualitative research is that moderators may be more prone to accusations of bias and personal subjectivity.

When to Use Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Some studies will only warrant one form of research, but very often both qualitative and quantitative research can be used together. In Sunnydale High School 25 percent of 11th grade students drop out each year. The principal knows that a teacher’s perceived interest in a student reduces propensity to drop out. The principal wants to use quantitative research to find out how many students in 10th grade feel that their teacher is directly invested in their success. He sends an email to 100 students to complete an online survey. Survey responses show that 75% believe their teacher is invested in their success. The principal then decides to use qualitative research with the remaining 25% and lead a focus group. He asks them more specific details as to what they would like to see from their teachers to feel more motivated and inspired during their school day.

– Research Optimus


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