Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
To understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, you need to define three keywords: quality, quantity, and research. Quality is an uncountable level of excellence or an attribute that differentiates things or people, while quantity is a generic term used fundamentally to refer to the measurement of something. Research refers to the systematic study of or investigation into a source or material to establish facts or draw conclusions. The results of any research can be qualitative, quantitative, or both.
Therefore, qualitative research investigates materials or sources to come up with their attributes or descriptions. Quantitative research, on the other hand, is research done focusing on numbers and mathematical calculations.
What Is the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?
There are some key differences between qualitative and quantitative research, mainly because their results are so different. Some fields prefer one type of research to the other, depending on what they were looking for. For example, scientists may prefer quantitative data, while sociologists may prefer qualitative data. Here are seven differences between the two:
- Quantitative data is collected and analyzed using statistics, while qualitative data is collected through observation.
- Quantitative data yields conclusive results, while qualitative data is more exploratory.
- Quantitative data is numerical in form, while qualitative data is more descriptive.
- Quantitative data is objective, meaning it’s based on facts, while qualitative data is more subjective and is therefore subject to interpretation and influence by feelings or opinions.
- Quantitative data is measurable involving lengths, prices, amounts, etc. while qualitative data isn’t. Qualitative data uses descriptive words and adjectives to refer to data.
- Quantitative data is structured for analysis purposes, while quantitative data is unstructured.
- People consider quantitative data to be more reliable and objective than qualitative data.
Here is a tabular summary of qualitative vs. quantitative research based on the data:
What Is Qualitative Research?
As has been highlighted, qualitative research yields more textual data, i.e., that is non-numerical, while quantitative data yields numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers. Qualitative data is useful in the exploratory stages of any project, such as in the pilot stage of a project. It gives rise to the underlying thoughts, opinions, trends, and motivations. The qualitative analysis results can either be considered to be conclusive or serve as the basis for further research.
Qualitative Research Techniques
Qualitative research techniques make use of both structured and unstructured techniques. Some examples of qualitative research methods are individual research interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation. Iterative study designs can be applied whereby the questions asked and the data collected change depending on what is learned.
Because qualitative data is typically presented in words that contain in-depth information, data analysis involves reading numerous amounts of transcripts. The goal of qualitative data analysis is to uncover similarities and differences in the data. This analysis leads to the development of themes from the data and coming up with categories. In the past, qualitative data analysis was a tedious process involving many people and highlighting things in different colors, but more and more software are being coded to aid the process.
Here are the features that make qualitative research what it is:
Approach – The qualitative researcher is concerned with understanding the phenomenon under study through inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning refers to the derivation of general principles from specific observations.
Goal – Qualitative research focuses on the depth of knowledge (getting in-depth knowledge on a particular subject) and consequently generating a hypothesis.
Setting – Qualitative research is collected in a naturalistic environment.
Sampling – Qualitative research uses purposive sampling. That means the participants are selected because of their ability to illuminate a particular matter.
Data collection – Data is collected using focus groups, observation, and interviews.
Data analysis – Qualitative data analysis is iterative.
Examples of Qualitative Research Topics
Here are some topics that would require qualitative research:
- What are the effects of underage drinking on the participants in the future?
- Which branch of the government is more important?
- What are the results of sleep deprivation on drivers?
- What is the perfect age a person should be allowed to drink?