Qualitative and Quantitative research
From a general viewpoint, quantitative research is a type of research that focuses its attention on analyzing numerical data whereas qualitative research is a type of research that uses words and phrases in its data analysis. The nature of qualitative research is that it approaches issues inductively so that it can generate theories as well as make discoveries through exploration. In addition, it develops understanding by describing multiple realities and capturing behaviors that occur naturally (Castellan, 2010). The usual methods of conducting this type of research are usually the exploratory scientific methods such as narrative analysis, case studies and ethnographies. In contrast, quantitative research approaches issues deductively so that it can test hypotheses and theories rather than generate them. In this respect, it shows association, establishes facts and demonstrates causality as well as makes predictions. The methods used in this type of research are scientific methods such as cohort studies, experiments and case control studies. Normally, there has to be hypotheses for testing in quantitative research, but they do not have to be there in qualitative research (Lichtman, 2010).
In terms of the number of respondents, only a few respondents take part in qualitative research while the number of respondents in quantitative research is usually big even if it is restricted by the error margin. The emphasis of qualitative research is usually on things that can be interpreted while the emphasis of quantitative research is on things that can be measured (Johnson, & Christensen, 2012).
In terms of data collection, researchers in qualitative research are usually attached to data collection processes in the sense that they interact extensively with research participants. Nevertheless, this is not usually the case in quantitative research because researchers usually detach themselves from research participants for them to obtain credible information. This simply means that the data collection processes for the two researches differ significantly. In fact, whereas researchers conducting qualitative researches engage their respondents in focus discussions, researchers conducting quantitative researches do not do this. Instead, they ask research participants questions and expect direct responses from them or they give them questionnaires to fill them on their own. In contrast, researchers conducting qualitative researches tend to re-develop their research questions as they interact with research participants. This does not happen in quantitative research because research questions are usually developed before data collection process starts (Hartas, 2010).
In terms of representation, qualitative research is usually non-representative meaning that results obtained from this research cannot be generalized to a general population. However, quantitative research is usually representative because its results can be generalized to a general population that has been studied carefully. In terms of focus, qualitative research applies a holistic approach in the sense that it examines many relevant elements so that it can develop hypotheses and theories. This practice leads to broad and detailed inquiries. As for quantitative research, the focus is usually narrow and concise with an emphasis on understanding many elements so that results can be generalized thereafter. Another difference is that through induction, qualitative research starts with evaluating phenomena through observation before theories and hypotheses can be generated. In this respect, qualitative research ends up with exploration and discovery of new aspects (Ary et al., 2009). On the other hand, deduction starts with theories as well hypotheses as it moves towards observation and linking causes to effects. Accordingly, quantitative research focuses its attention on linking theories and hypotheses to observations with an aim of establishing the relationship between the two.
Ary, D. et al. (2009). Introduction to research in education. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Castellan, C. (2010). Quantitative and qualitative research: a view for clarity. International journal of education, 2(2); 1-14.
Hartas, D. (2010). Educational research and inquiry: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. London: Continuum.
Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2012). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.
Lichtman, M. (2010). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide. Los Angeles: SA