There are two major categories of research: qualitative and quantitative. These research methods are often considered two direct opposite research methods. Social science research falls into these two broad categories quantitative and qualitative. To understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods a detailed description of both research methods is required.
The types of qualitative research methods are applied when we want to know the quality of things in detailed descriptions. The most frequently asked question is what is qualitative research? Qualitative research deals with words only, because it uses only qualitative data that consist of words. Qualitative research is exploratory in nature. It is used to understand the underlying motivations, reasons, and opinions.
Quantitative research uses numeric data that can be analyzed by suitable statistics. It is used to quantify opinions, motivations, and behaviors. It deals with quantities and answers questions like “how much”. Quantitative research is all about numbers and digits. The results of quantitative research are more objective than qualitative research.
However quantitative and qualitative research methods are complementary methods that can be combined together. Quantitative data gives detailed descriptions to understand the full implications of the problem. On the other hand side, quantitative data bring the numbers for objective analysis and results.
Qualitative vs Quantitative Research
We can differentiate the qualitative and quantitative research on the following points:
1. Data collection methods
Qualitative methods of data collection include content analysis, focus groups, textual analysis, in-depth interviews, review of themes, case study model, narrative model, and grounded theory method. On the other hand, quantitative methods of data collection include structured interviews, surveys, structured observations, questionnaires and document reviews for numeric information.
2. Formulation of hypothesis
Qualitative research uses an inductive process to formulate a hypothesis. On the other hand, quantitative research uses the deductive reasoning process to test a hypothesis that makes a theory.
Qualitative research is more subjective because it describes the problem from the point of view of a person who is experiencing it. Quantitative research is more objective because it provides observed facts of a condition, problem or program.
4. Nature of Data
Qualitative research is based on texts and words. Quantitative research is based on numbers.
5. Responses of subjects
Qualitative research offers unstructured or semi-structured responses. Respondents have the liberty to respond in their own words. Conversely, quantitative research offers limited or fixed responses.
6. Statistical applications
Qualitative research does not require any statistical treatment with the data. Statistical tests are applied in quantitative research.
7. Validity and reliability
The validity and reliability of qualitative research depend on the rigor and skill of the researcher. In quantitative research validity and reliability depend on the measurement instrument and device.
8. Time and expenses
Qualitative research takes less time and expenditure on the planning but it takes heavier time and expenses in the qualitative data analysis process. Quantitative research takes more time and expenditure in the planning phase but it takes lighter on the analysis phase.
9. Generalization of results
The results of qualitative research are less generalizable. Conversely, the results of quantitative research are more generalizable.
10. Presentation of data
Data is presented in the form of narrative style and quotes, which allows keeping reality that has been experienced. In quantitative research data is presented in the form of graphs, tables, statistics and schedules that give the reader an opportunity to compare and contrast the facts.
11. Types of analysis
Qualitative data is analyzed by the help of theories and in the quantitative research data is analyzed by applying statistical methods by the use of a computer.
12. Types of respondents
Individual subjects are taken as respondents in qualitative research, on the other hand, there are various individuals in quantitative research.
13. Representativeness of respondents
In-depth information is taken on different levels in qualitative research. It is necessary for quantitative research to use samples that truly represent the population.
14. Research design
Qualitative research design is without structure, open-ended and it can be modified while it is in the progress. Quantitative research design is always pre-planned and close structured.
15. Researcher/respondent Interaction
It is essential in qualitative research to arise empathy between researchers and respondents. In quantitative research, it is not essential to arise empathy between researchers and respondents.
Qualitative researchers want to know the character of uniqueness. Quantitative research is definitive and operative.
17. Nature of research
Qualitative research is holistic and quantitative research is particularistic.
18. Exploratory and conclusive
Qualitative research is exploratory and the quantitative research is conclusive.
The ideal approach is to use both the research methods together. Although, there are some fields where a particular method can be applied yet qualitative research is more interpretative and quantitative research is more concrete.