Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Building on the data types described in the previous module, researchers can use qualitative research, quantitative research, or a combination of the two. This module briefly overviews each type of research.
- Focus: People behaving in natural settings - because qualitative research (and qualitative) data is often more discovery-oriented, it is quite useful when observing people in their natural environments (e.g. students in a classroom).
- Data Emphasis: Qualitative research employs qualitative data which tends to provide more in-depth information about the study participants.
- Population: Due to the amount of data gathered through in-depth study, the sample sizes tend to be smaller in qualitative studies. Otherwise, the amount of data could quickly overwhelm the researcher.
- Conclusions: The qualitative data requires the use of qualitative analysis techniques. The results typically come from the researcher drawing conclusions based on these analysis methods.
As a summary, qualitative studies are good for gathering in-depth information from a smaller number of participants in a more natural setting. This type of study provides rich results that explore some of the nuances of relationships that are not available from quantitative data. However, the conclusions may be more limited due to the smaller sample size.
- Focus: Specific behaviors that can be quantified - in the case of a quantitative study, the researcher typically knows exactly which behaviors they are interested in measuring and exactly how they want to measure those behaviors.
- Data Emphasis: Compared with qualitative research, quantitative research gathers less-detailed information from the study population.
- Population: Because the data gathered is less detailed than in qualitative research, the sample size included in these studies is typically larger.
- Conclusions: Using the quantitative data, researcher typically conduct verification-oriented statistical analyses to draw conclusions.
As a summary, quantitative studies are good for gathering well-defined measures from a larger group of participants to help researchers verify an existing hypothesis. This type of study is typically useful when researchers already have a good idea of the phenomenon under study and how best to validate it.