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What's the Difference Between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research?

The main difference between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research is the kind of data being used and studied. Qualitative Research uses personal statements or publications on how people react, respond and rationalize within society to interpret issues or dilemmas. Quantitative Research, in contrast, uses numeric data to draw conclusions from a certain problem or phenomenon. 

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative Research is a non-statistical, unstructured or semi-structured study that aims to answer the question of “why” behind the problem, phenomenon, or practices being studied. It often uses open-ended questions to gather data from the persons involved (informants) in the study. Informants can provide insights that are based on their personal knowledge, experience, and expertise. Different insights would then be compared, contrasted, and collaborated with other informants’ responses to draw conclusions. These conclusions are made from deep and thorough explanations of the researchers from the informants’ answers.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative Research is a statistical, structured study that aims to answer the questions “what” and “how” behind the problem, phenomenon, or practices being studied. It often uses close-ended questions to gather data from the concerned people (respondents) in the study. Respondents can only provide hard, quantifiable answers like “yes or no”, scales (1 to 10, agree to disagree, satisfied to unsatisfied), or multiple choice answers. These answers would then be tallied and put into different statistical methods to achieve statistical data. These statistical data would then be used to generalize conclusions and predict outcomes.

Differences between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research are both study methods to scientifically and systematically explain the occurrences in different areas of human life. From advertising, clinical trials, and even the significance of astrophysical studies, these research types are being utilized to deliver useful information that impacts and influences society’s everyday life and thinking. Although they resemble the same parts and processes, notable differences are distinguishable between the two.

Data Gathering Procedures

Qualitative Research uses data description. It gathers data through interviews, observations, published or personal documents, and other research to carry out conclusions from careful and critical evaluation. After being evaluated, data would then be represented through conclusive statements.

Quantitative Research uses data measurement. It collects data through experiments, questionnaires, surveys, or database reports to explain the connection or trend through statistical paradigms. After computations, data would then be represented in graphs, charts, or tables.

Nature of Study

Qualitative Research is exploratory, creative, and flexible in nature. The design and scope of the project may transform as it progresses in order to ensure an exhaustive understanding of the study. This allows the study to be more in-depth and comprehensive. Because of this, Qualitative Research is subjective. The conclusions are dependent on the informants’ responses and the researchers’ ability and expertise to incorporate and explain them.

Quantitative Research is restrictive in nature. It doesn’t allow participants to put context to their answers. Conclusions are drawn from statistics and numerical data. Hence, it is more objective and almost free from personal bias. Also, it is controlled.  Researchers can identify at the start the data and elements that are about to be measured in the study. Researchers could also point out the methods to be utilized in order to acquire information from the respondents.

Participant Selection

In Qualitative Research, the participants (informants) are identified through non-random samples. For example, purposive sampling, convenience sampling, and snowball sampling. Informants could also be selected by their field of expertise, exposure and experience, or other classifications that would make them credible for the study at hand.

In Quantitative Research, the participants (respondents) are found through random sampling. Random sampling is known as the “gold standard” in research studies. A sample would be chosen randomly from the population that has equal chances of being picked out without bias. The respondents could be categorized into their demographic profiles.

Results and Analysis

In Qualitative Research, the results are the understanding of the participants (informants) practices, behavior, & character in a social context. Qualitative Research is inductive. Because the research uses the data gathered to come up with the study's abstract, concept, hypotheses, and so on.

In Quantitative Research, the results are used for prediction, generalization or causation (cause-effect relationships). Quantitative Research is deductive. It uses accurate measurements, mathematical equations, and hypothesis testing for its conclusions.

Comparison Chart: Qualitative Vs Quantitative Research

SpecificationsQualitative ResearchQuantitative Research
Terminology for Participants and SelectionInformants, Non-random SamplingRespondents, Random Sampling
Data Gathered and ProcedureNon-Statistical, Unstructured or Semi-Structured, Data DescriptionStatistical, Structured, Data Measurement
PurposeIn-depth Explanation of Phenomena, Problems, or PracticesGeneralized Conclusions, Outcome Predictions 
NatureExploratory, Creative, and Flexible
Subjective
Restrictive
Objective
Data RepresentationConclusive Statements from careful and critical evaluation of perspectives from InformantsGraphs, Charts, Tables, and gathered Data from Respondents
Answers the QuestionWhyWho, What, When, Where, How

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is Better, Quantitative or Qualitative?

It depends on the topic that a researcher is going to study. If a researcher wants to confirm a theory or a hypothesis through testing, Quantitative Research is the way to go. If a researcher wants to thoroughly explain a phenomenon or a concept, Qualitative Research would be more suitable.

Can You Combine Quantitative and Qualitative?

A researcher can combine both the Qualitative approach and the Quantitative approach. It is called Mixed-Method Study. This is a type of study that ensures a deeper exploration of a topic in a larger sample size. For example, a researcher can start with questionnaires to explore trends and then interviews to know the reason why they are trending.

Which is Faster to Complete, Qualitative or Quantitative?

Quantitative is quicker to accomplish than Qualitative research. In Quantitative Research, data gathering procedures are convenient. Also, data management and computation can be done with the help of computer programs. It is time-efficient and cost-efficient. Unlike Quantitative, a lot of work has to be done. From interviews to transcription, to evaluation, and critical analysis of an informant’s statement among other statements, too. Also, setting up interviews is quite expensive and time-consuming.

Conclusion

Qualitative or Quantitative, careful handling of data should be done in order for the study to be useful and successful. In today’s world, wherein there is an abundance of information, careful examination and studies must be conducted in order to inform and influence society for the greater good. After all, approaches and methods are just tools to uncover truths. Whether to predict outcomes or to attempt explanations for a certain phenomenon, researchers are bound by the social and moral responsibility of making the world sensible to humanity one study at a time.

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
All Posts Written By Nicolas Seignette

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