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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Abhijit Naik Oct 12, 2018
You may have come across concepts like qualitative research and quantitative research in social sciences, but do you know how they differ from each other?
Research is defined as a process of systematic investigation with the objective of establishing facts. In social science, there are two popular methods of research: (i) qualitative and (ii) quantitative.
In some studies, qualitative research has an edge. At other times, quantitative research fairs better. It is very important to understand the difference between these two in order to determine which method would be useful to study a particular trend.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Which of these 2 methods is to be used depends on a range of underlying factors, including the properties of the subject and objective of the research. Even though you can use both the methods, their comparison can help in making the choice.

Qualitative Research

In this case, the objective is to gather in-depth understanding of human behavior, in order to find out the reasons which make the person behave in a particular way. This form of research relies more on quality instead of quantity.
When it comes to decision making, this method focuses more on answering questions like 'why' and 'how', instead of restricting to questions like 'what'. The number of samples studied in this method are quite less compared to the number of samples studied in quantitative research.
In qualitative research, the end result is more often based on the studies of a few samples, and hypothesis is formed on the basis of these general conclusions.

Quantitative Research

In this case, however, the objective is to develop mathematical models and formulate theories, and employ them to get the end results. This method focuses on the investigation of quantitative properties and the phenomenon, as well the relationship between the two.
It relies more on quantity and numbers than on quality and details. The results are derived from numerical analysis and statistics. Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research has a large number of samples.

Difference Between These Methods

The most prominent differences between these two revolve around the objective and sample size. While qualitative research is restricted to a smaller group but goes into the details, quantitative research involves an exposure to a large group without going into the details.
The number of participants in qualitative research is less than the number of participants in quantitative research. Owing to the involvement of fewer subjects and less analysis, qualitative research requires relatively less time compared to quantitative research, which investigates a bigger part of the universe.
The results obtained from qualitative research have more chances of being biased, as this method of research is open to different interpretations.
Some argue that qualitative research is more reliable, as the researcher puts in more efforts in compiling the data, while some argue that quantitative method is more reliable, as a larger part of the universe is subjected to research.
As we mentioned earlier, both methods can be used one after another. For instance, you can opt for qualitative research method first and follow the same with quantitative method to verify the results. Lastly, there do exist cases wherein one method of research has a clear advantage over the other and hence, you can't dismiss either of the two as ineffective.