It’s crucial to know the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research, especially if you’re new to the field. Although there is a prevalent misunderstanding that one is “better” than the other, qualitative and quantitative research have quite distinct aims. Continue reading to learn about the differences between the two, as well as the various ways for gathering qualitative and quantitative data, how to convert one into the other, when to utilize which method, and how to analyze the data once you have it.
Exploratory research is the focus of qualitative research. It’s used to figure out what’s driving people’s decisions, attitudes, and motivations. It gives information about the problem and aids in the development of concepts or hypotheses for quantitative research. Qualitative research is also used to find trends in thinking and attitudes, as well as to go deeper into a topic. Unstructured and semi-structured procedures are used in qualitative data collection.
Qualitative data collection methods
Qualitative data collection methods vary and usually rely on unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Common methods include:
- Focus groups
- Individual interviews
- Observation or immersion. For example, an ethnography
- Diary studies
- Literature reviews
- Open-ended survey questions
Using qualitative research methods, the sample size is usually limited, and responders are chosen to meet a predetermined quota.
Quantitative research entails generating numerical data or data that may be turned into useable statistics in order to quantify a problem. It’s used to measure attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, and other well-defined factors, as well as to extrapolate results from a broader sample population. In quantitative research, measurable data is used to form facts and identify patterns. Methods for collecting quantitative data are substantially more structured than methods for collecting qualitative data.
Quantitative data collection methods
Quantitative data collection methods are much more structured; they include:
- Surveys. For example online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys, and kiosk surveys
- Interviews. For example face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, remote interviews
- Longitudinal studies
- Website interceptors
- Online polls
- Systematic observations
Qualitative vs quantitative data
In terms of the actual data, here are some of the key differences:
- Qualitative data cannot be counted. It’s made up of text, photographs, videos, and other media. Quantitative data can be counted in the same way that numerical data can.
- Qualitative data is typically unstructured, meaning it is not logically sorted or grouped. Analysis methods can be used to convert qualitative data into structured quantitative data.
- Because qualitative research isn’t usually seeking statistical significance, qualitative data is usually acquired from a lower sample size than quantitative data.
- Qualitative data is extremely valuable because it can provide you with directional insights into people’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and so on.
- Quantitative data can help to give you more confidence about a trend while also allowing you to derive numerical facts.
When to Use Quantitative and Qualitative Research
It’s critical to know how to use each form of data once you’ve grasped the types of data offered by qualitative and quantitative research, as well as the procedures for each. Quantitative data is typically used to answer specific questions and confirm or reject theories, whereas qualitative data provides more detailed information on a smaller scale.
Qualitative research is frequently used at the start of a study to gather broad, unstructured information about a topic in order to build a hypothesis that can subsequently be answered more explicitly by quantitative research. Qualitative data gathered through unstructured interviews or focus groups can also be used to help construct a more structured questionnaire that can be sent to a larger number of people.
Focusing on different ice cream brands, for example, may reveal that participants prioritise price and packaging. This data can then be used to answer a quantitative question, such as “When buying ice cream, which is more important to you?” 1) Cost 2) Packaging, which was given to a nationally representative sample of people.
To provide additional context to quantitative data, qualitative data can be employed as part of a mixed-methods research project. To reach a more solid conclusion, a researcher can use both a quantitative questionnaire and a qualitative study of interviews with subject-matter experts.
Surveys can also be split between qualitative and quantitative; Many surveys are mostly quantitative questions that can be quickly analyzed, plus one or two qualitative questions that provide deeper insights into the topic being studied.
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