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Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Quantitative research is expressed in numbers and is used to test hypotheses. Qualitative research is expressed in words to gain understanding.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research | Differences, Examples & Methods
Published on April 12, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk. Revised on February 7, 2022.
When collecting and analyzing data, quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings. Both are important for gaining different kinds of knowledge.
Quantitative research is expressed in numbers and graphs. It is used to test or confirm theories and assumptions. This type of research can be used to establish generalizable facts about a topic.
Common quantitative methods include experiments, observations recorded as numbers, and surveys with closed-ended questions.
Qualitative research is expressed in words. It is used to understand concepts, thoughts or experiences. This type of research enables you to gather in-depth insights on topics that are not well understood.
Common qualitative methods include interviews with open-ended questions, observations described in words, and literature reviews that explore concepts and theories.
The differences between quantitative and qualitative research
Quantitative and qualitative research use different research methods to collect and analyze data, and they allow you to answer different kinds of research questions.
Qualitative vs. quantitative research
Quantitative research Qualitative Research
Focuses on testing theories and hypotheses Focuses on exploring ideas and formulating a theory or hypothesis
Analyzed through math and statistical analysis Analyzed by summarizing, categorizing and interpreting
Mainly expressed in numbers, graphs and tables Mainly expressed in words
Requires many respondents Requires few respondents
Closed (multiple choice) questions Open-ended questions
Key terms: testing, measurement, objectivity, replicability Key terms: understanding, context, complexity, subjectivity
Data collection methods
Quantitative and qualitative data can be collected using various methods. It is important to use a data collection method that will help answer your research question(s).
Many data collection methods can be either qualitative or quantitative. For example, in surveys, observations or case studies, your data can be represented as numbers (e.g. using rating scales or counting frequencies) or as words (e.g. with open-ended questions or descriptions of what you observe).
However, some methods are more commonly used in one type or the other.
Quantitative data collection methods
Surveys: List of closed or multiple choice questions that is distributed to a sample (online, in person, or over the phone).Experiments: Situation in which variables are controlled and manipulated to establish cause-and-effect relationships.Observations: Observing subjects in a natural environment where variables can’t be controlled.
Qualitative data collection methods
Interviews: Asking open-ended questions verbally to respondents.Focus groups: Discussion among a group of people about a topic to gather opinions that can be used for further research.Ethnography: Participating in a community or organization for an extended period of time to closely observe culture and behavior.Literature review: Survey of published works by other authors.
When to use qualitative vs. quantitative research
A rule of thumb for deciding whether to use qualitative or quantitative data is:
Use quantitative research if you want to confirm or test something (a theory or hypothesis)
Use qualitative research if you want to understand something (concepts, thoughts, experiences)
For most research topics you can choose a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods approach. Which type you choose depends on, among other things, whether you’re taking an inductive vs. deductive research approach; your research question(s); whether you’re doing experimental, correlational, or descriptive research; and practical considerations such as time, money, availability of data, and access to respondents.
How satisfied are students with their studies?
Quantitative research approach
You survey 300 students at your university and ask them questions such as: “on a scale from 1-5, how satisfied are your with your professors?”
You can perform statistical analysis on the data and draw conclusions such as: “on average students rated their professors 4.4”.
Qualitative research approach
You conduct in-depth interviews with 15 students and ask them open-ended questions such as: “How satisfied are you with your studies?”, “What is the most positive aspect of your study program?” and “What can be done to improve the study program?”
Based on the answers you get you can ask follow-up questions to clarify things. You transcribe all interviews using transcription software and try to find commonalities and patterns.
Mixed methods approach
You conduct interviews to find out how satisfied students are with their studies. Through open-ended questions you learn things you never thought about before and gain new insights. Later, you use a survey to test these insights on a larger scale.
Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Learn the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research used in Statistics. Also, get the comparison chart to clarify your doubts at BYJU'S.
MathsMaths Difference BetweenDifference Between Qualitative And Quantitative Research
Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
The difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research is to understand the key fields of research and learning to differentiate between one and the other. In the field of business, science and technology, economics, etc, they use two standard ways of conducting research. One is qualitative research and other is quantitative research. Quantitative research uses statistical and logical observations to get the conclusion whereas the qualitative search relies on the verbal and written data. In short, quantitative research is generally expressed in numbers or represented using graphs, whereas qualitative research is expressed using the words for the given data sets. Now, in this article, we are going to discuss the difference between qualitative and quantitative research of different data sets.
Introduction to Data
Data Collection Methods
Data Management Categorical Data
Why do We Need Quantitative and Qualitative Research?
Quantitative research is useful in order to gain an understanding of the underlying opinions, motivations, and reasons. It gives insights into the problems. Also, quantitative research helps to develop the ideas and hypothesis. Whereas qualitative research is also useful in uncovering the trends, ideas and opinions, and gives deeper insights into the problem.
Definition of Qualitative and Quantitative ResearchQualitative Research: Qualitative research is used to gain an understanding of human behaviour, intentions, attitudes, experience, etc., based on the observation and the interpretation of the people. It is an unstructured and exploratory technique that deals with the highly complex phenomena which are not possible. This kind of research is usually done to understand the topic in-depth. It is carried out by taking the interview with the open-ended questions, observations which are described in words, and so on.Quantitative Research: Quantitative research method relies on the methods of natural sciences, that develops hard facts and numerical data. it establishes the cause and effect relationship between two variables using different statistical, computational, and statistical methods. As the results are accurately and precisely measured, this research method is also termed as “Empirical Research”. This type of research is generally used to establish the generalised facts about the particular topic. This type of research is usually done by using surveys, experiments, and so on.
What are the Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?
Quantitative research is a more methodical approach to solving problems by generating and using data, this method is much more methodical in solving. This form of research is used in quantifying data and variables into concrete data. The surveys used in the Quantitative Research includes online surveys, paper surveys and other forms of survey used to complete the research.Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative ResearchQualitative ResearchQuantitative Research
A method for developing a better understanding of human and social sciences, in understanding human behaviour and personalities better It is the method used to generate numerical data by using a lot of techniques such as logical, statistical and mathematical techniques
It employees a subjective approach It employees an objective approach
It is generally expressed using words It is expressed using the graphs and numbers
It has open-ended questions It has multiple choice questions
The qualitative research needs only a few respondents The quantitative research requires many respondents
The data collection methods involved are interviews, focus groups, literature review, ethnography The data collection methods involved are experiments, surveys, and observations expressed in numbers
Qualitative research is holistic in nature Quantitative Research is particularistic in nature
The reasoning used to synthesis data in this research is inductive The reasoning used to synthesis data in this research is deductive
This method involves a process-oriented inquiry This method does not involve a process-oriented inquiry
It develops the initial understanding of data It recommends a final course of action
The data taken in the Qualitative research method is pretty verbal The data taken in this method is pretty measurable
The objective of this research method is to engage and discover various ideas The main objective of Quantitative research is to examine the cause and effect between the variables
It is one of the exploratory research type methods It is a conclusive research type method
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Frequently Asked Questions on the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Qualitative vs Quantitative Research – What Is the difference?
In a nutshell, qualitative research generates “textual data” (non-numerical). Quantitative research, on the contrary, produces “numerical data” or information that can be converted into numbers.
Qualitative vs Quantitative Research – What Is the difference?
Bryn Farnsworth, Ph.D
PostDoc. & Expert Content Writer
June 11th, 2019 Share
Once you get started with human behavior research you soon find yourself running into the question of whether your research project is qualitative or quantitative in nature. There are inherent differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods, although their objectives and applications overlap in many ways.
The core difference
In a nutshell, qualitative research generates “textual data” (non-numerical). Quantitative research, on the contrary, produces “numerical data” or information that can be converted into numbers.Content:
What is Qualitative Research
What is Quantitative Research
Qualitative or quantitative study design?
What is qualitative research and why is it importantQualitative research is considered to be particularly suitable for exploratory research (e.g. during the pilot stage of a research project, for example). It is primarily used to discover and gain an in-depth understanding of individual experiences, thoughts, opinions, and trends, and to dig deeper into the problem at hand.
The data collection toolkit of a qualitative researcher is quite versatile, ranging from completely unstructured to semi-structured techniques.
Most common applied Qualitative Methods:
Group discussions Focus groups
Check out our Blog: How to measure Human Behavior: Survey vs. Focus Groups vs. Biometric
In addition, eye tracking or automatic facial expressions can be collected and analyzed qualitatively, for example in usability research, where gaze patterns (such as with heatmaps) or moments of expressions of frustration / confusion can be used to track the journey of an individual respondent within a software interface.
What is Eye Tracking and How Does it Work?
Typically, qualitative research focuses on individual cases and their subjective impressions. This requires an iterative study design – data collection and research questions are adjusted according to what is learned.
Often, qualitative projects are done with few respondents and are supposed to provide insights into the setting of a problem, serving as a source of inspiration to generate hypotheses for subsequent quantitative projects.
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What is quantitative research and how to measure it
Simply put, quantitative research is all about numbers and figures. It is used to quantify opinions, attitudes, behaviors, and other defined variables with the goal to support or refute hypotheses about a specific phenomenon, and potentially contextualize the results from the study sample in a wider population (or specific groups).
As quantitative research explicitly specifies what is measured and how it is measured in order to uncover patterns in – for example – behavior, motivation, emotion, and cognition, quantitative data collection is considered to be much more structured than qualitative methods.
Check out: How To Do Behavioral Coding in iMotions
Quantitative research techniques
Quantitative techniques typically comprise various forms of questionnaires and surveys, structured interviews as well as a behavioral observation based on explicit coding and categorization schemes.
In addition to these traditional techniques, biosensor recordings such as eye tracking, EEG, EDA / GSR, EMG, and ECG as well as computer-guided automatic facial expression analysis procedures are used.
Check out: What Is Facial Expression Analysis? (And How Does It Work?)
All of these quantify the behavioral processes in such a way that numerical results can be obtained – for example, fixation duration from eye tracking (representing the amount of visual attention), the number of GSR peaks (indicating the amount of physiological arousal) or the power of a specific EEG band.
Check out infographics: The Study of Human Behavior: Measuring, analyzing and understanding
After data collection, quantitative analysis techniques and statistics can be applied, such as t-tests and ANOVAs, to non-parametric methods. This often necessitates much bigger sample sizes compared to qualitative research but allows you to make more solid conclusions, that are backed up with data.
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Qualitative or quantitative research study design?
Ultimately, whether to pursue a qualitative or a quantitative study approach is up to you – however, be sure to base your decision on the nature of your project and the kind of information you seek in the context of your study and the resources available to you. Qualitative will offer you an in-depth understanding of your research problem and hopefully help answer your hypothesis. Quantitative will allow you to scale your research to provide larger sets of data for reliability and validity. A combination of the two provides you with objectivity.