Qualitative Vs. Quantitative Research: What’s the Difference?
The terms qualitative and quantitative apply to two types of perspective reasoning, used most often when conducting research. Your first clue into the differences between these types of reasoning lies in the words themselves. Qualitative is focused on the quality of something, whereas quantitative is focused on the quantity. Most often these types of investigation are found in research papers and studies, which can utilize either. These methods will turn a research paper from a general listing of information into a comprehensive overview of a specific topic. Whether you are writing for your profession or as part of your academic study, you will need to utilize a strong analytical skill in order to craft a clear and logical argument, something you can learn more about by enrolling in this course. It is important, no matter the form of reasoning, to be sure you know how to make a sound argument.
When it comes to conducting research, making use of both of these methods, quantitative and qualitative, is necessary. As research methods, they are distinct from one another and each has individual benefits that allow you to best investigate the subject at hand as well as to organize your findings in a compelling manner. Most research papers will rely on both, though some will lean more in one direction than the other.
Qualitative research is used most often to gain a stronger understanding of the underlying principles of a subject. The focus of qualitative research is on opinions and motivations. Qualitative research is used to create insight into the problem presented in the work or paper. It can also help develop ideas or hypotheses at the start of quantitative research. In this instance it is done in order to help focus the study itself.
Qualitative research can help unearth trends in thoughts, philosophies, or opinions. It is a much more subjective focus for research and often does not contain hard data such as statistical information. Instead, it aims to get to the root of ideologies. It is a research method used most often in the analysis of literature. It may require learning about an author and being well versed in all their work, or by engaging in extensive research into a specific literary period such as that of Romantic poetry. It can also be used for historical review, sociological studies, ethical experiments, and investigations into personality and behavior.
Quantitative research is more often then not associated with hard data. The research is used to quantify – that is, to put numerical assignments to findings – the problem being investigated so that the data can be transformed into statistics. Understanding descriptive statistics, as detailed in this course, will be a necessity when conducting quantitative research.
Quantitative research is not limited to mathematics. In fact, there are many different types of quantitative research than most people expect. Math and statistics are just the method by which quantitative research finds its toehold. Attitudes, opinions, and behaviors, though subjective in nature, can be compared quantitatively in order to produce results. In most instances, quantitative research is taken from a large pool of the population, or else from a large body of experimental subjects.
What Are The Main Differences Between The Two?
Though both can be used in unison, it is important to understand the major differences between them. First and foremost, quantitative research is objective and qualitative research is subjective. The difference being that the objective research provides results that are not of opinion, but are actually backed up by the statistical mathematics behind them. The subjective nature of qualitative research is focused more on feelings and theories and therefore does not necessarily allow for such definitive conclusions to be drawn. It is this issue of perspective that divides them.
Generally speaking, the research questions asked by the two forms are quite different as well. Whereas qualitative research asks the questions of ‘why’ and ‘what,’ quantitative research poses the question of ‘how many,’ or ‘what are the correlations between the data.’ Furthermore qualitative research is done in order to develop a theory whereas quantitative research takes the idea a step further and seeks to test that theory. In this way they are linked, because qualitative studies will pose the theory that the quantitative methods plan to test. Here we see that the results are measurable in quantitative research, whereas the qualitative research is often more interpretive.
Another area where the two perspectives differ has to do with the person conducting the research and the people or animals being investigated. A researcher conducting a quantitative experiment is going to remain separate from the process. Their job is to view what is happening objectively and this means they have to stay removed from the process. A qualitative researcher, however, can be a part of the process. They are allowed to draw their opinions into the investigation. Generally, those participating in quantitative research are considered subjects, whereas they are called participants in a qualitative study.
The setting for the different viewpoints can differ greatly as well. Quantitative investigation or research is usually conducted in a highly controlled setting. Because quantitative reasoning or research is focused primarily on the outcome (in order to craft strong statistical analysis) it is important that extraneous factors don’t alter the findings. An investigation of qualitative reasoning or research is much more flexible. Often the affect of a surrounding environment will have no affect on the outcome. Therefore most qualitative work can be done in a natural setting. Here the focus is on the process more fully.
When engaging in qualitative or quantitative thinking it is important that you familiarize yourself with the different research methods available for each. This will help you be sure which is the right type of reasoning and research for you. Either way, you should be prepared to spend lots of time investigating so that you can write the best research paper possible. Check out this Udemy course to learn more. The site offers many different great courses on how to write for research as well as ways to increase your understanding of these two very different mindsets. Finding out how to apply your knowledge can be the start of an exciting investigation that could lead to astounding new discoveries.
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Last Updated December 2018
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