Qualitative and quantitative research are terms that describe two distinct methods for gaining information. Both types of research are used in the nursing profession to expand knowledge and improve treatment techniques.
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Qualitative research typically uses words to describe information gathered. For example, a nurse researches case studies which describe a particular patient's medical condition and response to treatment. Quantitative research collects information in the form of numbers. For example, nurses use the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) to collect data about a patient's functional abilities when he enters the hospital and again when he leaves.
Qualitative research can be performed on one individual or several. Information is subjective, meaning it is the interpretation of the person collecting the information. Quantitative research is performed on large groups of people, such as a group of patients in the hospital with a particular diagnosis. Information is gathered using objective measurements with diagnostic equipment or functional assessment tools.
Qualitative research is conducted in the subject's natural setting whenever possible, whereas quantitative research attempts to control environmental factors that may affect the information collected.
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