Qualitative Research Design and Sampling

Two Types of Study Design

There are two major types of study design implemented to conduct research in exact, natural, social, and other sciences and disciplines. The choice of the design is largely determined by the purpose the researcher pursues as well as the essence of the experiment conducted (Creswell, 2013).

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Qualitative research is mostly used for exploratory purposes as it allows finding out underlying causes, motivations, and explanations of various events providing insight into the problem. The importance of it is also accounted for by the fact that it helps develop ideas that later become hypotheses for future quantitative studies. Qualitative research makes it possible to discover repetitive patterns, trends, and tendencies in thoughts and opinions and predicting outcomes of various situations (Creswell, 2013).

On the contrary, quantitative research can only assist in generating numerical information in order to transform researchers’ observations into applicable statistical data, quantifying opinions, behaviors, reactions, and attitudes. This type of research allows making general assumptions about the population based on the experiment. Unlike qualitative studies, quantitative methods of data collection are much more properly-structured and do not allow plenty of interpretations being numerical. At the same time, the researcher can compare events and draw conclusions on this basis (Creswell, 2013).

Each of the two designs has its own advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing for the researcher is to be able to select the proper design in order to achieve expected outcomes. There are two major aspects in which these types of studies differ significantly.

Control over Study Conditions

When we deal with quantitative research, we can be certain that the environment of the experiment is strictly controlled from all aspects. Most researchers believe that this is a considerable benefit as exact measures and a high level of control over variables make the results more precise and accurate. Moreover, this helps establish relations and causalities. Nevertheless, there is also a disadvantage hidden in the attraction of the controlled environment.

Despite the fact that the results can be applied for a large community, laboratory settings considerably differ from the real ones, which means that the same measures may bring about different consequences in reality (Punch, 2013).

As for quantitative research, the situation is exactly the opposite. Since the control over study conditions is rather lax, the researcher gets the advantage of observing participants in their natural state of body and mind. Yet, there is still a drawback since it is next to impossible to produce accurate measurements in such cases (Punch, 2013).

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Generalizing Results from a Sample to a Larger Group of the Population

Another important point of difference is the way results can be generalized from a sample participating in the experiment to the experience of the whole community (Creswell, 2013).

As far as quantitative study is concerned, the key advantage it provides in this respect is the ability to make generalized conclusions judging by the results obtained during the experiment. Thus, the samples are demonstrative of population trends. However, there is also a disadvantage. Quantitative research makes it possible to find out tendencies; yet, it does not allow arriving at new ideas and theories since it is totally reduced to the deduction (Creswell, 2013).

In contrast, qualitative research does not permit generalizations. Still, its advantage consists in the fact it often results in the development of a new theory. The disadvantage is that the results of such studies are not demonstrative and cannot be applied to the community as a whole (Punch, 2013).


Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Punch, K. F. (2013). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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