Qualitative Vs. Quantitative Research Abstract

QualitativeVs. Quantitative Research


Researchcan be carried out using either qualitative or quantitative researchmethods. In some instances the researcher may use both methods intheir study. In such a situation, qualitative study is usuallysuitable for the first stage of the research while the latter partcan be accomplished through quantitative. Qualitative research isdescriptive or exploratory research and is usually applied on a smallpopulation or sample. It is largely used in social sciences such associology and psychology to explain human behavior and otherphenomena. Quantitative research on the other hand seeks to givenumerical value to issues and phenomena in the society. It utilizesstatistical tools and knowledge to quantify phenomena. This method isused to study large populations and can be useful in validating orexplaining already set hypotheses or theories. Major differencesexist between the two research methods. They differ in terms ofobjectivity, sample size, type of data collection techniques used,data analysis, data presentation, the nature of their use, the aim ofthe study among other aspects. Quantitative research method wasoriginally used and was popular in the 18thcentury. Some scholars opposed positivism and introduced qualitativeapproach to research, which changed the research play ground. Thechoice of the method of study is dependent on different factors.Technically, they may be different but are both useful in researchand they help explain various phenomena, situations or human behaviordepending on the way they are used. There is no method that issuperior to the other. They are normally used to complement eachother.

Inresearch, there are two approaches to conducting a study qualitativeor quantitative research methods. The two methods of conductingresearch are used depending on the kind of study that is beingconducted. This enables the researcher to obtain the necessaryinformation and come to the needed conclusions. In some instances,the two approaches are used hand in hand in order to conclude aresearch study (Franklin, 2012). This essay looks at the differencesbetween the two approaches in terms of approach, use and the benefitsand limitations presented by each approach.

DifferencesBetween Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

Thereare distinctive differences between qualitative and quantitativeresearch methods.

Aimof the Research

Themain aim of qualitative research is to give a comprehensive, in depthdescription of the research topic, hence exploratory in nature.Quantitative research focuses mainly on counting and categorizingfeatures and creating statistical models and figures to give meaningto what have been studied (Littlefield,2013).


Quantitativeresearch is objective in nature as it only seeks precise measurementsand analysis of subject issue to answer its inquiry. Thus,quantitative research is objectively different from the subjectmatter. On the other hand, qualitative research is basicallysubjective as it seeks to comprehend human behavior and reasonsbehind such behavior (Punch,2013).In this type of an approach, researchers have the likelihood ofbecoming subjectively immersed in the subject matter.


Qualitativeresearch is suitable for the initial stages of a research project,while quantitative approach is suitable for the project’s latterpart (Littlefield,2013).Quantitative research gives the researcher a lucid picture of what isintended in the research as compared to qualitative research.


Inqualitative research, data is presented in form of words mainly frominterviews, images or objects such as artifacts, while inquantitative data is presented in numerical form such as percentages(Littlefield,2013).


Qualitativeresearch generates findings which are not conclusive and cannot beapplied to make generalizations of an entire population. The researchdevelops primary understanding and sound basis for further decisionmaking. Quantitative research findings are used to recommend a finaldecision on the subject matter.


Qualitativeresearch is basically exploratory research. It is mainly used to getan understanding of fundamental rationale, and motivations. Theapproach helps in providing insight into the issue being explored orhelps to develop hypotheses or ideas for prospective quantitativeresearch. In addition, qualitative research is employed to unearthtrends in thought and views, and dig deeper into the problem (Punch,2013).It was widely used in social sciences to explain human behavior anddifferent social phenomena.

Basically,they are used when the researcher has no clue of what to expect, howto define the issue or create an approach to the issue. Qualitativeresearch has a wide historic development background. In the beginningof the 18thcentury, some scholars rejected positivism (the hypothetical ideathat there exists an objective world where data could be gathered andverified through empiricism) (Punch,2013).As a result, this group of researchers acknowledged qualitativeresearch approach. In the 1970’s through the 80’s the growingubiquity of computers helped in qualitative analyses which led tonumerous journals with a qualitative aspect being published givingrecognition to post-positivism (Denzin &amp Lincoln, 2011). Throughthe 1990’s the idea of a passive observer in qualitative researchwas disputed, making qualitative research more participatory. Sincethe inception of qualitative research, identity issues became ofconsiderable interest including race, class and gender which madequalitative research become more reflective (Östlund,et al., 2011).

Qualitativedata collection techniques vary using semi-structured andunstructured methods. Commonly used methods of qualitative datacollection include focus groups or group discussions, participationor observation as well as individual interviews (Denzin &ampLincoln, 2011). In qualitative study, the sample size is normallysmall with participants being selected to fulfill a certain quota.

Strengthsof Qualitative Research

Qualitativeresearch has various strong points when used for a study. It issuitable in explaining human behavior as data is based on categoriesof meanings of the participant. Unlike quantitative, it can be usedto explain complicated phenomena (Saladana, 2012). Since it’sdescriptive, it provides understandings and descriptions ofindividuals’ personal experiences of phenomena. It is suitable inextensively studying a limited portion of cases. In qualitativeresearch, data is usually collected in natural environment. Themethod is always responsive to situations as they occur during thestudy unlike in quantitative research.

Weaknessesof Qualitative Research

Inmost instances, collecting data for qualitative study is tedious andthe analysis of the data can be very expensive and time consuming(Savin-Baden &amp Major, 2013). Besides, to carry out qualitativestudy, there is need for training and experience. The fact thatqualitative data uses a small sample size makes it appear as unfitfor generalization.


Quantitativeresearch is an approach of conducting a study in a quantifiablemanner. It is used to quantify the issue being investigated by way ofgenerating numeric data or information that can be transformed intouseful statistics (Punch,2013).It can be used to quantify opinions, behavior, attitudes or any otherdefined variable and help generalize findings from a big samplepopulation. Quantitative research utilizes measurable data to createfacts and unearth trends in research.

Methodsof collecting data in quantitative research are highly structured ascompared to qualitative data collection techniques. There aredifferent methods of quantitative data collection including surveys(paper surveys, online surveys, kiosk surveys and mobile surveys),interviews (telephone interviews, face to face interviews),longitudinal studies, online polls, website interceptors andsystematic observations (Goertz&amp Mahoney, 2012).

Quantitativeresearch methods were initially developed in physical sciences byGustav Fechner during his project on psychophysics, which developedthe work of Ernst Heinrich Weber.

Strengthsof Quantitative Research

Quantitativeresearch has the advantage of testing and validating already existingtheories regarding the way and the reason phenomena occur (Pickard,2013).The study involves large size of sample hence results can begeneralized for a larger population. In addition, quantitativeresearch is useful for obtaining data that requires statisticalpredictions to be made. Most methods of collecting quantitative dataare fast and economical for instance online surveys. Quantitativedata provides precise numerical data and are useful for large sample(Wrench,2013).This method also has higher credibility with various stakeholdersincluding governments, project funders and politicians.


Thecategories that the researcher uses in quantitative research may notecho local constituents’ understanding. In addition, the researchermay overlook some phenomena emerging as he may focus on hypothesis ortheory. Findings from quantitative research might be too narrow andgeneral for direct application to particular local individuals,contexts or situations (Littlefield,2013).


Ideally,qualitative and quantitative research approaches can be used tocomplement each other in the same study. This may be costly, buteffective since the two provide varying perspectives and usually setoff each other (Franklin, 2012). Nevertheless in case of use oftraditional methods due to constraint in budget or time, it isimportant to choose the approach that suits the research objectives.One should also be aware of the limitations that the chosen methodhas over the other in order to settle on the best method possible.One should never substitute one method with the other for instance,doing more focus groups should not be assumed to substitutequantitative research. Alternatively, long surveys should not be usedin believe that they will provide deep information that one could getthrough qualitative approaches. In the modern world, with all thedevelopment in technology such as the development of SPSS(Statistical Program for Social Sciences) and other data analysissoftware, the use of qualitative and quantitative techniques isnecessary to produce reliable findings.


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Franklin,M. I. (2012). UnderstandingResearch: Coping with the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide.London/New York. Routledge.

Goertz,G. &amp Mahoney, J. (2012). Atale of two cultures qualitative and quantitative research in thesocial sciences.Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Littlefield,J. (2013). Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research.

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Saladana,J. (2012). Thecoding manual for qualitative researchers.Sage.

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Wrench,J. (2013). Quantitativeresearch methods for communication: a hands-on approach.New York: Oxford University Press.