Basics of Research Process

Quantitative vs Qualitative Research: Difference Between the Study Methods & Examples

qualitative vs quantitative research
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Today we will explore the difference: qualitative vs quantitative research.  After all, knowledge comes in various forms. Sometimes, it is about calculated values. Sometimes, you have to analyze in order to gain a solid understanding. 

These two categories of methods are the main ways a research object can be analyzed and described. They take different approaches to obtaining information. One is more focused on observing, noticing and explaining differences. Another is about collecting numbers and measurements. It is about calculating, performing statistical analysis and predicting trends.

We will explain both approaches in detail and talk about their main area of application.

Quantitative vs Qualitative Research: Main Differences

Let’s compare qualitative vs quantitative research. Their main differences lie within the following aspects:

  • Purpose: qualitative research aims to evaluate the different aspects of a problem. Quantitative research works with measurable parameters. It aims to calculate statistics and probabilities.
  • Methods: qualitative methods revolve around observing target groups. This type interacts with them, and studies their interpretations of the problem. It's also analyzing and explaining the results. Quantitative methods include finding patterns and calculating probabilities. These methods deal with testing causal relationships and making predictions.
  • Material: qualitative research uses results of observations and interviews. Quantitative research uses measurable parameters and works with numbers or graphs.
  • Usage: qualitative research is used in anthropology, psychology and arts. Quantitative research is mostly used in natural and social sciences. These are chemistry, biology, psychology, economics, sociology, etc.

Difference Between Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

Let’s make a more detailed comparison of quantitative vs qualitative research methods. As we’ve already mentioned, the qualitative category is mostly about observing groups and understanding the meaning of their reactions. At the same time, qualitative one is about data collection and processing. Knowledge obtained through any of these methods can be useful for many various topics. This way you should choose those methods which can be most useful for your project.

Check below for more details about the methods.

Quantitative Data Collection Methods: Main Characteristics

The main feature of quantitative data collection methods is a general methodology of gathering numeric or measurable data about the subjects. Collected data should provide enough material for statistical analysis. This way, different meaningful research conclusions will be obtained.

Main ways of data collection are:

  • Questionnaires, conducting surveys or polls.
  • Laboratory or field experiments.
  • Direct observations.
  • Retrieving results from sources, such as books.

It is important that you take precautions to ensure that the data you’ve gathered is valid.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods: Peculiarities

Qualitative data collection methods don’t work with measurable parameters. They must rely on opinions, impressions, reflections and typical reactions of target groups. Main ways to obtain qualitative insights and knowledge include:

  1. Conversations. They can be conducted by talking to focus groups. Another way is having in-depth interviews – face-to-face or by phone or video.
  2. Ethnography. You should observe a target group in their natural environment and conditions.
  3. Literature review. Knowledge can be obtained from analyzing sources. Comparing their conclusions to each other is also an option.

When to Use Qualitative Research vs Quantitative Research Studies

If you must choose qualitative vs quantitative research and perform an online search because you aren’t quite sure about that, here are basic tips about them:

  1. Choose qualitative research if your goal is to understand, explain or evaluate some ideas, concepts, tendencies or outcomes.
  2. Choose quantitative research if your task is to test, confirm or refute some hypothesis or theory. When will you need quantitative methods to collect and process the data? Use these methods when you must support your research with any calculations, measurements or graphs.

A complicated problem typically requires both qualitative and quantitative research. This is also called a mixed methods approach.

Quantitative Research Approach: How to Use

Quantitative approach helps the most when you must analyze measurable values. The following steps are recommended when researching such values:

  1. After you have selected your topic, locate the key parameters of the problem. You should find out how you can measure them.
  2. Formulate your hypotheses using these parameters.
  3. Start validating your hypothesis. You should use quantitative data collection methods. These are surveys, experiments and observations.
  4. Once you’ve got all the numbers you need, apply statistical analysis to this data in order to validate your hypothesis.
  5. Make a conclusion about the facts and answers which you’ve got from this analysis.

Qualitative Research Approach: Main Definition

Qualitative research, on the contrary, helps with values which are not measurable. These are the steps of implementing such an approach:

  • Select your topic and find out which aspects of the problem that can be explored with qualitative methods.
  • Formulate your hypothesis. Qualitative research can help a lot at this stage. You can initiate your research by discovering main problems or opportunities which are related to the problem. Those ideas can become hypotheses to be proven through quantitative research.
  • Proceed to collecting insights about the problem. Use the following qualitative data collection methods: interviews, ethnographic research, literature review.
  • Analyze the results and make a conclusion about the ideas you have discovered. Use quotes obtained from open ended questions.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Methods Approach

When making a choice – qualitative vs quantitative – you should keep in mind that these approaches actually don’t conflict with each other. In general, any study of a complicated problem has to implement them both. It is called a mixed methods approach.

Qualitative research is usually the best starting point when you must discover new aspects of your problem before you conduct a deeper research later. Quantitative data, on the other hand, can give you measurements to confirm or refute a statement about a problem or opportunity by analyzing available data.

Qualitative and Quantitative Data: How to Analyze

Finally, let’s compare qualitative vs quantitative research by how the results are analyzed in each case.

Quantitative approach works with numeric data. Once you have collected your samples, you should extract some meaningful information from them. Use operations such as:

  1. Calculation of mean, average or median values, max and min limits etc.
  2. Calculation of relations between different parameters.
  3. Calculation of probabilities.
  4. Building tables or graphs to illustrate trends.

Qualitative data focuses on evaluation and explanation instead of statistical analysis. You can do the following to analyze it:

  1. Evaluate content, e.g. by examining occurrence and meaning of certain words or phrases.
  2. Conduct thematic analysis to identify the main patterns.
  3. Conduct discourse analysis to study the rules of communication in a certain context.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research Examples

Are you writing a paper on a complicated topic? Do you need help with implementing different research types? We have a few quantitative vs qualitative research examples to better illustrate the concepts described above. Let’s examine one of them.


A new supermarket has opened recently. Your task as a marketing manager is to collect feedback from customers. There are several parameters that could be measured and analyzed with quantitative research. These are:

Attendance rate.

Number of returning customers.

Sales growth (in general or by separate categories of products).

Ratings of product quality or service level given by customers and others.

You can perform statistical analysis and develop understanding of a big picture here.

But you can also provide some open-ended, qualitative research questions to find out what you may have overlooked. Customer focus groups can be selected to answer the following:

What did you enjoy the most in our supermarket?

What would you suggest to improve?

What kinds of new goods would you like to find here?

Do you prefer making purchases here alone or together with your family?

If you discover any common themes through these qualitative questions, you can decide to research them more in depth.

If you know how to work with data and statistics, you will not have any problems with a lab report.

Final Thoughts on Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

We hope that a detailed comparison of qualitative vs quantitative research was useful to you! Both these concepts were examined and explained. Data collection and analysis approaches were compared. A helpful example was also provided to help you understand this information better. Hopefully that helps you a lot in your own project!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

2. What is data collection?

Data collection of qualitative vs quantitative research is the systematic process during which observations or measurements are gathered in research. You should obtain some basis before you start making assumptions or conclusions. So you must plan how and where you can collect enough data to form that basis.

1. How do I decide which research methods to use?

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question. Use quantitative methods to collect and analyze measurable data. But if you must evaluate some new ideas or to explain some complicated, non-measurable concepts, be sure to involve the qualitative approach.

3. How can quantitative data be collected?

After you have identified the measurable parameters you must explore, you have to identify your sources and work with them. Probability sampling, interviews, questionnaire observation, and document review are the most common ways of quantitative data collection. Make sure your sources are credible so that you only process valid data.

4. How do you convert qualitative data to quantitative data?

Qualitative data can provide valuable insights on how to identify valid sources of measurable data. Once you’ve done that, you can use the quantitative approach. Here’s an example of such a scenario:

  • Find the range in the data set.
  • Apply sturges's rule to determine the number of classes.
  • Determine the class width.
  • Use excel to plot the histogram.
Article posted on:Nov 17, 2022
Article updated on:Apr 11, 2024


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