Qualitative Vs. Quantitative Research Methods

Updated April 17, 2017

The two primary research methods are qualitative and quantitative. The purpose of qualitative research is to help understand and decipher social interactions. The primary purposes of quantitative research are to create and test hypotheses, look at cause and effect, and make scientific predictions. Qualitative research may focus on words, images or objects, while quantitative studies involve numbers and statistics.

Qualitative Features

Qualitative research deals with conducting interviews and observing and recoding behaviour. The information collected is primary used to focus on individuals and the human level. Detail and descriptions are important with qualitative research. This type of research is more focused on process instead of outcomes. Qualitative research is flexible and evolving.

Quantitative Characteristics

Quantitative research collects data by questionnaires, inventories and computers. Researchers will generally use large samples to create a group that represents a larger population. This type of research starts with a hypothesis statement to explain a specific situation with numbers and objective data. The researcher is more of an observer than a active participant. Quantitative research is structured and well tested.

Pros and Cons of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research will provide more in-depth details. Extensive research methods don't need to be used. The downside to this kind of research is the results can't be generalised to the public. Information also can't be provided on how many people answered a survey question one way or another.

Pluses and Minuses of Quantitative Research

The data can typically be collected and analysed fairly quickly. Sensitive topics can be researched using anonymous surveys. If the response rate is high enough, the sample used for the study can be generalised to the general population. However, quantitative research can be more costly than the qualitative method.

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About the Author

Versiera Miller began writing in 2011, bringing expertise in financial topics. She holds a M.B.A. with a specialization in accounting from Capella University, as well as a B.S. in business administration and a B.S. in accounting from North Carolina Wesleyan College.