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Qualitative and Quantitative Research: Comparison and Contrast


Research is a French word that means to seek closely and is well expressed by the word “recherché”. It was meant to inquire about a particular topic to learn more or to dig the root cause of a problem or a particular situation. In other cases, the word researching is used to explain a situation that is observed in the society thus the interest to understand the nature of the workings of the specific thing by research questions as guidelines. This work will focus on the similarities and differences of qualitative and quantitative research deriving from research articles in journals.

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The research process

The research process has several steps involved during the carrying out of the research researcher first identifies the research topic and then a working hypothesis. The hypothesis is the argument that defends the research in the course of the process. Following this is the selection of materials to use either journals, articles, or books, and then writing down notes. However, actual research starts when the researcher immerses in the actual writing of the paper, report, or project. In addition, to this, a researcher makes sure that there are limitations and delimitations to any research. By this, the concept is that the researcher defines and gives a general guide on the terms and the keywords used in research that are different from the common language approach and analysis (Reed & Trigwell, 2006).

Of the most important to this paper are the research methods in research. The research takes any of the three forms mentioned here empirical, constructive or exploratory. In addition, research can be classified as primary or secondary and regarding the subject matter or objectives of the research qualitative or quantitative research methods are used. It must be noted that these two research methods differ and compare in peculiar ways which this part of the paper will focus on as the main body of the paper (van Wijngaarden, et al. 2009).

Quantitative research

The quantitative research method is used mostly in social sciences in a systematic empirical inquiry manner. The purpose of this research is to get the quantitative properties of phenomena and the existing relationship. In addition, this method uses instruments that emphasize a rigid approach in eliciting and categorizing information. The use of highly defined methods such as questionnaires, surveys, and structure observation gives the quantitative research approach the peculiar differences from other research methods. It is used to quantify variation, predict causal relationships, describe characteristics of a population (O’Donnell, Lutfey, Marceau, & McKinlay, 2007).

In addition, it is closed-ended, numerical and the study design is stable from beginning to the end. In this research method, the participant responses never influence the outcome of the researcher’s questions and the study design is subject to statistical assumptions

Qualitative research

This research method aims to explore the information from a deeper perspective. It is common with anthropology and sociology which are disciplines concerned with human and human behavior. Other studies like women, education management, and others are known for relying on this method to gain information. The instruments used are more flexible and require an interactive style to elicit and categorize information by the questions. It uses semi-structured methods such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. In addition, it aims at describing variations observed in the research. Also, in its approach, it describes and explains the relationships and the individual experiences of the group norms. It is open-ended and to some extent and it depends on textual information which is recorded in audiotapes, videotapes, and filed notes (Ortlipp, 2008).

The researcher in this method enjoys flexibility as the format of the questions may be changed regarding the situation. These forms some of the merits of this method since the relationship between the researcher is not formal hence answers to question are elaborate and in-depth and at the same time the researcher can be able to seek more information by prompting the respondent to answer or clarify in accordance to the questions or follow up sections (Murtonen, & Titterton, 2004).

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In addition, understanding the differences and the similarities between qualitative and quantitative research requires a clear and focused approach while defining the necessary jargon found along. For any research to happen successfully, the research must first identify the topic of research under the particular field and therefore the guide on the selection of the research questions. Moreover, the researcher must look for materials to support the research process which will be suitable from the beginning to the end (Kothari, 2008).

The research process is futile if the researcher will not identify the research method to use. As already said, research goes beyond merely seeking to interpret, organize, and analyzing therefore after identification of the initial requirements, a research guide will see through which research process to be used. Research can be explained in three forms to be exploratory, empirical, or factual. Research can be either classified as primary or secondary and the research methods of a project are either qualitative or quantitative (Murtonen, 2005).

Qualitative and Quantitative methods

The qualitative research method aims at taking an interpretive approach to the study research. This is the most efficient method when the researcher wants to determine the impact of something. In this research method, human behavior and the factors that influence it are approached in social sciences like sociology and anthropology hence it takes an interpretative direction.

This research method takes a naturalistic approach in the efforts to make sense of what the human perceives on the subject. Of peculiar to this research method is that it starts on the point where it recognizes that there are many different ways of interpreting the world but now looks at the persons under research interpretation of a phenomenon (Kiley, & Mullins, (2005).

Being largely used in social sciences qualitative research faces an uphill task in health science and other pure sciences because instead of the presence of a working hypothesis, the method searches and comes out with one. In addition, the measurement and understanding are exchanged for explanation and generalisability respectively. In the dissemination and publishing of information, there are varied formats thus it proves quite taxing to undertake such publications. The quantitative method emphasizes the characteristics and the amount of a particular proposition in the research (Kumar, 2008).

However, both research methods can be termed to have similarities in their application and from their root cause of investigation. Quantitative research mainly dominates most of the pure sciences and it is the most accepted research method. Although they are marked differently and are perceived in different ways what should be emphasized is that they are both methods of systematic inquiry which is well represented in the empiricism form of research.

In this form, knowledge is based on the observation of the world therefore these two methods cannot be said to be different since their final endeavor concurs with that. In the two research method approaches’ reasoning is gained by available data analysis. Although quantification is the main point in quantitative method reasoning prevails by the end in the analysis of the data which coincides with the qualitative method (Newman, Thompson & Roberts, 2006).

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In addition, the purpose of any research is to bridge the gap between the world of experience and phenomena to a form of representation. The reports of any research are guided by themes, association patterns, and differences. On the other hand, reliability and validity in any research report are paramount whether it is a quantitative or qualitative research method used. The generalisability between the researcher’s context and the reader’s context requires that in both methods of research the reader must determine the applicability thus the two methods are similar rather than dissimilar.

Comparing and contrasting quantitative and qualitative methods

Although qualitative research has been described as the sole owner of the search for meaning in the study, a study has shown that even quantitative research also in some instances is interested in looking for meaning besides being commonly known for the search of amount. In accordance to Meyer, Shanahan, & Laugksch, 2005), the inclusion of attitude in the survey where interviews and questionnaires suggest that in a quantitative study, the meaning is incorporated therefore the difference between the two methods in this instance is very minimal.

On the other hand, the quantitative research method can be used to develop and construct views in social and business stances in the endeavor to shape the business outlook and mission. In this case, quantitative research functions like qualitative research in that it can be used to construct new information regarding social views hence aiding business leaders and companies to strategize on old themes by renovating them to modernity (Harrison, MacGibbon, & Morton, 2007).

In the context of words and numbers, qualitative research is seen to sometimes use or incorporate quantification in the research study to a minimal degree. However, such quantification is only seen as a reflection of the participant’s understanding of the social world therefore the researcher at this instance must differentiate the quantitative method way of quantification (McMillan, 2009). This quantification must thus be interpreted as a guide on the generality of the phenomena under study (Glyn, 2008).

Qualitative research is also found to involve quasi quantification when the researcher uses the terms often, many and some in the analysis of the data recorded in order of frequency besides the categorization in terms of themes and the main points of the research. This suggests that qualitative method analysis of data points out the fact the two methods are not distinctive but have some areas where they merge.

A concept of artificial versus natural when brought in qualitative and quantitative differentiation points to the divide between the two research methods. In quantitative research, the use of a high number of instruments like questionnaires, structured interviews, and schedules means that the respondent of the study research is not a position to inject what is personal or to give the reality of what is there but is guided by the given instruments thus information elicited is under the direction of the researcher, not the respondent.

In qualitative research, the researcher allows the respondent to take the centre stage by giving information that is not interrupted by the researcher. In this process, the respondent is free to give any information without limitation or control by structured instruments. On the other hand, the researcher may prompt the respondent to give more information in a particular perspective as long as the information makes sense and contributes to the research study.

By using the reciprocal approach analysis, a study has shown that quantitative research can be used to analyze qualitative data. On the other hand, qualitative research can be used to analyze quantitative data. In this respect therefore these two research methods are distinct and can be contrasted while at the same time they are similar in some of their attributes and approaches (Jinks, & Green, 2004).

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In conclusion, therefore quantitative and qualitative research methods have varied points of approach as outlined. The fact that these two methods are similar confirms that both are concerned with adding knowledge to the world of knowledge and because they are different it means that the concepts of analyzing and coming up with new information can be credible under the two methods thus they are useful in any research. Besides health sciences, businesses and pure sciences’ must rely on them to create new products, solve problems and make the world a better place to live in.


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Harrison, J., Mac Gibbon, L., & Morton, M. (2007). Regimes of trustworthiness in qualitative research: The rigors of reciprocity, Qualitative Inquiry, 7(3), 323-345.

Jinks, A. M., & Green, H. E. (2004). Clinical and academic perspectives on how to develop and enhance nursing research activities. Journal of Research in Nursing 9: 401-410.

Kiley, M., & Mullins, G. (2005). Supervisors’ conceptions of research: What are they? Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 49(3), 245-262.

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Kumar, R. (2008). Research Methodology. New Delhi: APH Publishing.

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Murtonen, M., & Titterton, N. (2004). Earlier mathematics achievement and success in university studies in relation to experienced difficulties in quantitative methods courses. Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education, 9(4), 3-13.

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O’Donnell, A. B., Lutfey, K. E., Marceau, L. D., & McKinlay, J. B. (2007). Using Focus Groups to Improve the Validity of Cross-National Survey Research: A Study of Physician Decision Making. Qual Health Res 17: 971-981.

Ortlipp, M. (2008). Keeping and using reflective journals in the qualitative research process. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 695-705.

Reed, J. E., Trigwell, P. (2006). Treatments recommended by health shops for symptoms of depression. The Psychiatrist 30: 365-368.

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