Qualitative and Quantitative Research – A Comparison

Qualitative research allows the researcher to consider a selected issue and continue the research without constraining by the already determined category of analysis whereas the quantitative research is done by using the measurements of different ideas and experiences of people into a certain number of already determined responses.

The qualitative research is holistic whereas the quantitative research is particularistic in nature. Moreover quantitative research suggests a final course of action and qualitative research develops the initial understanding. You should know how to use a combination of both the methods since qualitative method is interpretative and quantitative is concrete.

Please find the main differences between the qualitative and quantitative research from the following table:

Content Qualitative Quantitative
Nature Holistic Particularistic
Approach Subjective Objective
Hypothesis General Tested
Data Verbal Measurable
Sampling Purposive Random
Research Type Explanatory Conclusive
Result Creates Initial Understanding Suggest a Course of Action

Qualitative Research

The qualitative research is a type of research that focuses on the gathering and analyzing data and information that is natural and more interpretive in nature. It looks for an in – depth understanding of the social aspect within its natural setting. This type of research not only focuses on the definition, reason and its concepts but also speaks about ‘what’, ‘why’ of the social aspect.

Multiple enquiry systems of study for a human and social phenomenon such as case study, historical analysis, ethnography, grounded theory, and biography and disclosure analysis are used in this method of research.

A book “Approaches of Qualitative Research” by Oxford University Press details the information about qualitative research.  SAGE publications also published a book on this. Areas like the individuals, cultures and societies, communication and language make use of this type of research.

Types of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research provides the detailed and descriptive results which gives a better understanding of the issue and situation. If the researcher is eager to look at the negative cases in society as the respondents provide different experiences and view points, the researcher can use this research method.

Generally, there are six types of methods to be used in qualitative research.

In – Depth Interview
Focus Groups
Case Study Research
Ethnographic Research
Grounded Theory
Observation Process

Qualitative research method is considered to be the old method as it was associated with sociology and was used to study the human behavior and its interaction with society and with other individuals.

Qualitative research focuses to reveal the entire truth and meaning of the subject under observation. It also suggests an outcome that is measured and studied by quantitative research.

This research method assesses all the meanings and the process of social life of a person intentionally or unintentionally involved and acknowledges the day to day life of a person and creates new theories which can be tested and assessed in later stages. In short, qualitative research generates descriptive data that can easily be interpreted using different transcribing techniques.

There are several attributes that make qualitative research work well to get desirable outcomes of the research conducted.

  • Qualitative research strengthens the idea of team work and collaboration among the respondents
  • The pattern of interviews and discussion helps to the respondents together which are effective and constructed ways of gathering data
  • By this method, you can register the nonverbal communications too by observation while conducting the face to face interviews.

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Data Collection and Analysis

Data Collection is the initial step of your research process. The data that is initially collected is in raw form and cannot be understood by a normal person which is not a researcher. To make this data readable and meaningful, the researchers refine and reform them to use it while writing a research paper.

Data is collected in two types mainly. Quantitative and qualitative research and is then analyzed. A researcher decides which form to choose for which research topic.

Let’s look at how the qualitative data is collected, presented and analyzed making sense and meaning.

Qualitative Data Collection

Qualitative data collection helps in collecting the data in the non-numeric form and helps us to explore how decisions are made on the data collected and present detailed and structured information.

To reach the result and conclusion, the information gathered should be holistic, resulting in a careful and detailed analysis.

No matter what method a researcher chooses to gather data for qualitative research, the amount of the information gathered will be huge. Just like the different varieties of methods are available, there are distinctive ways of collecting and gathering data as well. It totally depends on the person which one to select for his research.

For example, if the data is collected by the focus group method or one-on-one interview method, there can be handwritten notes as well as videotaped notes and conversations. If you have it on your tape, you know you first have to transcribe before the whole data analysis process starts.

Casually speaking, it can take about 8 to 10 hours to transcribe the recordings of your interview which will result in 20 – 30 pages of dialogue. Many people like to maintain separate folders to organize the recordings from the focus groups. In this way, there collected data is compartmentalized.

In case you have taken or written running notes, also known as field notes, help you in managing comments, maintaining environmental contexts, nonverbal cues, etc. These running notes are very important, helpful, and can be used while transcribing the recorded tapes.

These notes are informal but should be handled with care just like you take care of and give importance to your recordings.

Qualitative research method is considered to be the old method as it was associated with sociology and was used to study the human behavior and its interaction with society and with other individuals.

Qualitative research focuses to reveal the entire truth and meaning of the subject under observation. It also suggests an outcome that is measured and studied by quantitative research.

This research method assesses all the meanings and the process of social life of a person intentionally or unintentionally involved and acknowledges the day to day life of a person and creates new theories which can be tested and assessed in later stages. In short, qualitative research generates descriptive data that can easily be interpreted using different transcribing techniques.

The qualitative analysis can be divided into four main categories:

  • Content Analysis – This process categorizes Behavioral or verbal data to classify and summarize it.
  • Narrative Analysis – This method includes the reformulation of the conversations and stories by the respondents which are used as the data for the research. In short, narrative analysis is the rewriting of initially collected qualitative data by research.
  • Discourse Analysis – This method of analysis includes all the naturally occurring talks and written texts.
  • Framework Analysis – this is an advanced method of analysis in which several stages like identifies a thematic framework, coding, mapping, familiarization, charting, and interpretation are used to treat data.

In qualitative research, there is usually one central question and sub-questions to narrow the phenomenon researched. The sub-questions are generally precise and specific.

Generally, qualitative research lacks assumptions and hypotheses. According to this, the research question depends on the research design.

If you are choosing to conduct a qualitative study on your research topic following are the guidelines for you to develop the right question:

  • Keep in mind the qualitative research question start with what, why, or how.
  • The question looks for the main phenomenon that you are deciding to conduct your research on
  • Words like influence, effect, relate and cause should be avoided.
  • It can contain words like experience, meaning, personal experience, understanding, and stories.

Examples of some qualitative research questions are:

  • How often does do teenagers visit their grandparents?
  • How does stress at work relate to the quality of work?
  • Why do teenagers prefer to listen to rock music more than classical music?
  • What are the most important factors in the life of a mother?
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