Quantitative research vs. Qualitative research
Research methods are broadly categorized as either quantitative or qualitative. Understanding each method is fundamental in writing winning research projects. While each technique serves a different purpose, they often work in tandem, complementing each other within a project to help you achieve results that are both wide-reaching and deep.
So, what is the difference between qualitative research and quantitative research?
The core difference is that quantitative research, like the term suggests, deals with quantitative data. This means that the variables used in the study must be in numerical form. If there are no numbers involved, then the research is not quantitative. Qualitative research, on the other hand, deals with information that is descriptive, meaning that it can neither be observed or measured. Qualitative research is exploratory and seeks to study and explain complex phenomena that cannot be explained using quantitative methods.
The two methods also differ in terms of the methods used during data collection and analysis. Qualitative data collection methods use either unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some of the most common methods used include observation/immersion, groups, and individual interviews. The sample size in qualitative research is relatively small, and the respondents are purposefully selected to achieve the intended purpose. Quantitative techniques, in comparison, are more structured and comprise different forms of questionnaires and surveys such as online surveys, paper surveys, over-the-phone surveys, and face-to-face surveys, behavioral observations, and online polls. The sample size is relatively more extensive, and the respondents are random, unlike in qualitative research methods.
When it comes to data analysis, quantitative research employs analysis techniques and statistics ranging from t-tests and ANOVA to non-parametric methods. These methods often stress on a larger sample size to produce solid and reliable results. Qualitative research, in contrast, uses subjective techniques like eye tracking and automatic facial expressions. Few respondents are involved compared to quantitative analysis since the focus is on individual cases, which are supposed to give an insight of the problem setting.
There is a common misconception that either method is better than the other. You cannot separate quantitative and qualitative data. Both research methods are equally important. Whichever method you choose will depend on various aspects of your research project, including the nature of your research questions, the underlying philosophy, as well as your skills and preference. Sometimes your research may require using one method while other times, you may need a mixture of both. Therefore, it is upon you to gauge and decide which research method best suits your research questions.