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Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in Studies


There are two basic approaches to research: quantitative and qualitative. They use different data and methods; also, they can be connected to different attitudes towards knowledge and research (Polit & Beck, 2017). The present paper considers the examples of these approaches and compares and contrasts them. It demonstrates that both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, which makes them appropriate for different types of studies.

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The Types of Information in the Research Articles

The work by Rothenberger et al. (2014) produces a quantitative analysis, which considers the effect of the use of different surfaces on blood circulation in the heel and sacral areas. The purpose of the study is to determine if one of the investigated surfaces can significantly improve blood microcirculation, reducing the risk of pressure ulcer development. Roberts et al. (2016) offer a qualitative analysis of the perceptions of the nurses concerning the implementation of particular bundle guidelines aimed at the prevention of pressure ulcers.

Both studies are connected to the issue of pressure ulcer prevention, but they focus on different phenomena, one of which is simple and measurable while the other is complex and immeasurable. Both studies have a relatively small sample (twenty and eighteen people) chosen through purposive sampling. Also, they lack a theoretical or conceptual framework and fail to provide critique of their literature review. However, both are ethically appropriate and meticulously point out their limitations when drawing justifiable and warranted conclusions.

General Advantages and Disadvantages of the Two Research Approaches

The quantitative approach is a very well-controlled research design that produces generalizable results, which are based on objective reality, even though there are variations in control depending on the type of study (Cantrell, 2011; Schultz, Rivers, & Ratusnik, 2008). However, Polit and Beck (2017) demonstrate that this approach cannot study complex events, which is the result of its attempts to eliminate complicating factors to measure a particular variable. The work by Rothenberger et al. (2014) illustrates this description. The majority of the article’s limitations are the results of focusing on a single risk factor (blood microcirculation in specific areas) and employing healthy people as participants. However, the isolation of the factor and the lack of contributing issues in the participants help the authors to control their research.

Qualitative research has the major advantage of focusing on the study of complex and typically immeasurable phenomena, thus addressing the scope of issues that quantitative research cannot address. Qualitative research is more flexible and holistic; also, it produces in-depth insights and can work with narrative and subjective data (Polit & Beck, 2017). This strength is connected to a weakness: the elimination of bias in qualitative research is more difficult to achieve, the studies are less controlled, and the results are less generalizable. The study by Roberts et al. (2016) illustrates these features: it examines an immeasurable phenomenon (perceptions) through subjective means (assessments produced by nurses), which the authors acknowledge as a limitation (reduced generalization possibility) and attempts to mitigate by involving participants with diverse backgrounds. Thus, the authors employ the appropriate approach while taking into account and addressing its weaknesses.

Qualitative Research as Real Science

The idea that qualitative research is not the “real” science may be connected to the fact that the quantitative approach is very reputable, but this position does not seem to be productive (Polit & Beck, 2017). As shown above, both quantitative and qualitative inquiries have advantages, disadvantages, and special features, which implies that the choice of the design should be guided by the needs and opportunities of a particular study.

For instance, the assessment of the nurses’ perceptions demands the use of a qualitative methodology, and the authors make the right choice. Then, they improve their study by admitting the fact that this approach has limitations and attempting to reduce them. Similarly, in the quantitative study, the authors meticulously point out the limitations caused by the isolation of one risk factor in the complex process of pressure ulcer development. Also, both studies share the issue of the lack of criticism of their literature review, which demonstrates that the problem of the lack of rigor is not specific to a particular approach.

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Thus, it can be suggested that the “real” science presupposes a careful review of pertinent and high-quality sources, a meticulous development of a methodology, and a presentation of results that takes into account the study’s limitations. Such an approach is exemplified by some of the assigned readings, including those by Metheny, Davis-Jackson, and Stewart (2010), Padula, Hughes, and Baumhover (2009), and Yuan et al. (2009). When a study does not correspond to these parameters, it might be labeled as not “real” science.


The two main approaches to research have advantages and disadvantages, which seem to be interconnected. For example, quantitative research is not fit for studying complex events because it is aimed at eliminating the extraneous variables. Similarly, qualitative research is more difficult to control specifically because it works with more complex phenomena. The quantitative approach appears to be respected to a greater extent for its precision, but qualitative research cannot be viewed as inferior, and both methods should be employed when they are beneficial for a particular study.


Cantrell, M. A. (2011). Demystifying the research process: Understanding a descriptive comparative research design. Pediatric Nursing, 37(4), 188–189.

Metheny, N. A., Davis-Jackson, J., & Stewart, B. J. (2010). Effectiveness of an aspiration risk-reduction protocol. Nursing Research, 59(1), 18–25.

Padula, C. A., Hughes, C., & Baumhover, L. (2009). Impact of a nurse-driven mobility protocol on functional decline in hospitalized older adults. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 24(4), 325–331.

Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2017). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice (10th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

Roberts, S., McInnes, E., Wallis, M., Bucknall, T., Banks, M., & Chaboyer, W. (2016). Nurses’ perceptions of a pressure ulcer prevention care bundle: A qualitative descriptive study. BMC Nursing, 15(1), 1-10.

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Rothenberger, J., Krauss, S., Held, M., Bender, D., Schaller, H., & Rahmanian-Schwarz, A., … Jaminet, P. (2014). A quantitative analysis of microcirculation in sore-prone pressure areas on conventional and pressure relief hospital mattresses using laser Doppler flowmetry and tissue spectrophotometry. Journal of Tissue Viability, 23(4), 129-136.

Schultz, L. E., Rivers, K. O., & Ratusnik, D. L. (2008). The role of external validity in evidence-based practice for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation Psychology, 53(3), 294–302.

Yuan, S.-C., Chou, M.-C., Hwu, L.-J., Chang, Y.-O., Hsu, W.-H., & Kuo, H.-W. (2009). An intervention program to promote health-related physical fitness in nurses. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 18(10), 1404–1411.

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