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Advantages & disadvantages of qualitative & quantitative research

Updated July 20, 2017

Both qualitative and quantitative research are used in studies throughout many disciplines, including science and the social sciences. Qualitative research is concerned with complete and detailed descriptions of events, whereas quantitative research creates statistical models to explain events. Qualitative and quantitative research have several advantages and disadvantages, depending upon the researcher's aim and area of focus.

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Advantages of qualitative research

Qualitative research is useful during the early stages of a study when the researcher may be unsure of exactly what will be studied or what to focus on. This type of research does not need a strict design plan before it begins. This gives the researcher freedom to let the study unfold more naturally. Another advantage to qualitative research is the researcher gains more detailed and rich data in the form of comprehensive written descriptions or visual evidence, such as photographs. This type of research looks at context and social meaning and how it affects individuals, which is advantageous particularly in the social sciences.

Disadvantages of qualitative research

The researcher of a study using qualitative research is heavily involved in the process, which gives the researcher a subjective view of the study and its participants. The researcher interprets the research according to his or her own biased view, which skews the data gathered. Another disadvantage is that this research method is very time consuming and can last for months or even years.

Advantages of quantitative research

Quantitative research allows the researcher to measure and analyse data. The relationship between an independent and dependent variable is studied in detail. This is advantageous because the researcher is more objective about the findings of the research. Quantitative research can be used to test hypotheses in experiments because of its ability to measure data using statistics.

Disadvantages of quantitative research

The main disadvantage of quantitative research is the context of the study or experiment is ignored. Quantitative research does not study things in a natural setting or discuss the meaning things have for different people as qualitative research does. Another disadvantage is that a large sample of the population must be studied; the larger the sample of people researched, the more statistically accurate the results will be.

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About the Author

Catherine Jones has been writing and editing since 2006. She writes on topics relating to popular culture, sports, teaching, and English studies. She began teaching college level English in 2008. Jones holds a Master of Arts degree in English in addition to degrees in business administration and art.

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