Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Technological developments and innovations within the different industries mean that research methods are also evolving constantly. There are three types of research methods – qualitative, quantitative and mixed method which uses both of them. When and why do we use these methods? Let’s look at each one separately in order to get answers for our questions.

Qualitative research may help to understand:

  • the feelings, perceptions and values that influence the behaviour
  • emotions and attitudes on social and public affairs issues
  • how people perceive certain marketing messages
  • what are customer needs
  • strengths and weaknesses of products/brands

Quantitative may help to:

  • measure, count or offer statistical validation
  • find patterns and averages
  • determine the best price point or product concept
  • make predictions
  • generalize results to wider populations

These two methods are sometimes used by the same areas. The areas qualitative method is used:

  • anthropology, sociology, political science, psychology, health services, social work, business and educational research.

And the quantitative method is widely used in these areas:

  • psychology, economics, demography, sociology, marketing, community health, health and human development, gender studies, political science, anthropology and history.

Understanding the key differences between them lets you know which data you are going to use in your research.
Qualitative method tries to find the reasoning behind the actions of people, societies, and cultures using open-ended, exploratory questions rather than describing the situation using numerical measurements.  This data can be observed but not measured by numbers. Qualitative research is much more personal, interactive, and creative. It takes place in “natural environments”. In this context, it means a place that subjects can freely discuss and provide answers to any question researchers ask. It can be online or offline depending on the available resources to researcher. In recent years, however, most researchers are using online platforms to get a better representation. Different types of qualitative research methods include observation, focus groups, interview, case research, ethnographic research. In this research, responses to questions affects the next questions researchers ask.
Quantitative method uses information about quantities, and therefore numbers. This research method gathers data in a numerical form which can be put into categories, or in rank order, or measured in units of measurement.  This kind of information can be used to draw graphs, charts or tables that consist of various numbers associated with the research topics. Using this method, researcher makes statistical analysis that contain numbers through polls, questionnaires, and surveys. Therefore, since it is mathematics, quantitative approach is viewed as scientifically objective, and rational. Mathematical principles also reduce the chance of a biased research. This research usually uses online methods in order to reach a wider audience. Polls, questionnaires, and surveys can be conducted quickly and easily using modern technologies. The method also lets you to “manipulate” pre-existing statistical data, which means any new data can be added to statistics in order to give further insights about the research.
Let’s look at sample questions in both research methods to further know the differences between them.
Qualitative research questions:

  • How does the break-up affect the depression rate among young people?
  • What is it like to have a single-parent family growing up?
  • How does living in a war zone shape the behaviour of the children?
  • How difficult is it to live in a particular country as a foreigner?

Quantitative research questions:

  • How often do you buy mobile apps for sport and weight-loss purposes?
  • What percentage of population prefer the particular product?
  • How regularly do you visit another country for your holiday?
  • How much salary are you expecting from a company?

While it is possible to use one of these methods for a study, in some cases, one of them may not be enough too give you the full picture. In this case, it is better to have a balanced approach to qualitative and quantitative research methods to get the best result out of the study.