The choice of the research approach is an important decision because it determines further validity and reliability of the study results. The selected approach, qualitative or quantitative, defines the research design, methods of data analysis, and generalizability of the results. Quantitative research is usually more formal, objective, and applies a deductive approach, while qualitative research is rather informal, subjective, and uses an inductive approach.
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A research problem or question usually guides the selection of the research approach. Quantitative research is applied when the study aims to “describe new situations, events, or concepts” (Suresh, 2014, p. 41). The research problem is deductively reasoned and does not change during the process of investigation. At the same time, in qualitative research, the problem is reasoned inductively and can be modified during the process of investigation (Suresh, 2014). Thus, the peculiarities of the research problem should be considered during the choice of the research type.
A conceptual framework or theory can guide both qualitative and quantitative studies. In quantitative research, a conceptual framework is usually developed by the literature review and precedes the hypothesis formulation. It also helps to determine the variables for quantitative research. In qualitative research, a conceptual framework can be used to clarify the research problem or objectives.
Qualitative and quantitative studies apply different research designs. Thus, qualitative research usually uses experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental designs (such as surveys) (Creswell, 2014). Qualitative research designs are more varied and include narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnographies, case study, etc. (Creswell, 2014).
The type of investigation also determines the strategies of sampling. Thus, quantitative studies demand “large representative samples” which are useful for the generalization of the findings (Suresh, 2014, p. 22). Qualitative researches as in-depth studies, usually have small samples that do not allow the generalization of the results.
The methods used for data analysis and their interpretation are also different. For example, quantitative methods are pre-determined, contain instrument0based questions, use performance, attitude, observational or census data, apply statistical analysis or statistical interpretation (Creswell, 2014). Qualitative methods are emerging, use open-ended questions, work with the interview, observation. Document. And audio-visual data (Creswell, 2014). Quantitative methods also include text and image analysis and pattern interpretation.
One of the signs of research quality is its rigor. Rigorous or trustworthy research is the one that uses proper research tools to correspond to the objectives outlines for the investigation (Rigor in qualitative and quantitative research, n.d.). It means that the procedures for data collection and their analysis should be rigorous and include adequate sampling, reliable and recent sources of information, and suitable analysis methods (Creswell, 2014).
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Quantitative and qualitative research approaches also differ in the generalizability of the research findings. Thus, the results of quantitative research can be generalized due to the significant sample involved in the investigation. On the other hand, qualitative research with comparatively small samples does not allow generalizing the findings.
Generally speaking, the choice of research type belongs to the research team. However, certain characteristics determine the application of quantitative or qualitative research. Thus, the choice between qualitative and quantitative types depends on the research question and the research objectives. Moreover, the research type affects the selection of research design, sampling strategies, methods for data analysis, and opportunities for generalization of the research findings. However, despite the type of study, it should be rigorous and provide accurate conclusions.
Cresswell, J.W. (2014). Research design. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
Rigor in qualitative and quantitative research. (n.d.). Web.
Suresh, S. (2014). Nursing research and statistics. New Delhi, India: Reed Elsevier India Private Limited.