Qualitative and Quantitative Research

We’ve all come across numerous articles like The 10 Benefits of Running or The Latest Superfood That Will Change Your Life. These articles, more often than not, are based on research. We use research to find answers to several questions in science. Research is a systematic study of materials and sources that allows us to establish facts or arrive at new conclusions about a specific field or topic. There are two primary types of research we conduct, based on the kinds of questions we are looking to answer. These are quantitative and qualitative research. Let’s take a closer look at when, how, and why these are used.

Qualitative Research

This type of research is often used when the scope is broad and exploratory. The purpose of qualitative research is to provide a comprehensive overview of the topic. This can help you establish narrower sub-topics to delve deeper into for the answers to your research questions. Researchers tend to conduct qualitative research before they set their hypotheses in place or fine-tune them based on the results of this type of research.

Usually great for initiating research, the qualitative method is employed to gather unquantifiable data like opinions, preferences, trends etc. As you might have already guessed, the data in this research type is primarily textual or in the form of images or objects. This data is gathered through focus groups, in-depth unstructured interviews, and/or open-ended question surveys. Therefore, the analysis of these results is subjective and open to the researchers’ interpretations.

Quantitative Research

On the other hand, quantitative research is more focused, and the data gathered is in numerical form. This form of research is more objective in nature and is aimed at classifying or counting data so that the results are measurable. Also known as empirical research, the purpose of quantitative research is to determine cause and effect relationships between two or more variables. We employ statistical, logical, and mathematical techniques to gather and tabulate data in this form of research.

Primarily, the methods of data collection in quantitative research include surveys, observations, close-ended questions (often yes or no questions), etc. The researchers’ approach the data objectively as the data gathered in this approach is more precise and is targeted towards providing accurate measurements and analysis of the research topic.

Keeping the differences and the purposes of both qualitative and quantitative research in mind, an ideal scientific enquiry utilizes both methods to arrive at the answers to the research question or draw fresh conclusions from the data gathered. While many attempt to weigh the merits of either the qualitative or the quantitative method over the other, it is clear that both these methods become crucial at different stages of research.