Another aspect of qualitative vs quantitative is knowing when to use each. When deciding whether to use a quantitative or qualitative research approach, keep the following basic criterion in mind.
Use quantitative research if you want to test or confirm something, for instance, a theory or a hypothesis. Use qualitative research if you wish to understand something, such as concepts, thoughts, and experiences.
For a majority of research topics, you can go for a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach. Which type of research approach you opt for can depend upon factors such as:
- Whether your research approach is inductive or deductive
- Type of research questions
- The type of research you are conducting; correlational, experimental or descriptive
- Other considerations such as money, time, and availability of data as well as that of the respondents
Use quantitative research if you want to test or confirm something …use qualitative research if you wish to understand something
Quantitative research approach
An example would be that of conducting a survey amongst 300 students at your university and asking them questions such as “on a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with your product?”
You can then statistically analyze the data and derive conclusions such as “on average, customers rated this product at 8.2 – on a scale of 1-10”
There are free online templates you can use for this kind of approach.
Qualitative research approach
Conducting detailed interviews with 10 customers, and asking them open-ended questions like “How satisfied are you with the service?”, “What is the most positive aspect of this service?” and “What can be done to further improve this service for you?”
Depending upon the range and type of answers you get you can even then ask follow-up questions in order to clarify specific areas of your research. This enables you to refine any grey areas in your findings.
You will then document all the answers using any transcription software and try to find patterns and generalities.
Analyzing the data
In terms of quantitative vs qualitative data, neither quantitative or qualitative would demonstrate or prove anything by itself. It has to be properly analyzed in order to demonstrate its meaning in association with the research questions. Each type of data would have a different method of analysis.
Analyzing quantitative data
Quantitative data is largely based on figures. Simple mathematics or more advanced statistical analysis is required to discover patterns or common trends within the data. The results are typically expressed in the form of tables and graphs.
Standard industry software such as Excel, SPSS, or R can be used to calculate things like:
- Average scores
- The frequency of a certain answer
- The causation or correlation between two or more variables
- The validity and reliability of the results
Analyzing qualitative data
Qualitative data is comparatively trickier to analyze when compared to quantitative data. It’s expressed in the form of images, texts, or videos instead of absolute figures.
Some of the commonly employed methods to analyze qualitative data include:
- Qualitative content analysis: Monitoring the position, occurrence, and meaning of certain phrases or words
- Thematic analysis: Thoroughly examining the data in order to identify the main patterns, commonalities, and themes
- Discourse analysis: Understanding how communication works in social contexts
Quantitative vs Qualitative research – outcomes
Quantitative data will allow you to see the bigger picture from a predominantly statistical viewpoint. Qualitative data, on the other hand, adds further details and can even impart a human voice to the results of your surveys.
Quantitative vs Qualitative research – hypotheses
Research invariable involves a set of expected outcomes, there are a number of hypotheses involved in this process, let’s explore the concepts around these…
Qualitative research enables you to collect detailed information on a certain topic. You can then use it to initiate your research by exploring the opportunities or problems that people encounter. Those ideas then become “hypotheses” or theories – yet to be proven through quantitative research.
Validation of hypotheses
Quantitative research will give you results in the form of absolute figures upon which you can apply statistical analysis to validate your hypotheses.
Was that problem even real or just somebody’s perception? The facts attained through quantitative research will enable you to make an informed decision.