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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research Essay

Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Compare and contrast: qualitative and quantitative research
  4. Conclusion


Research is a key aspect for any scientist as they seek to produce knowledge and validate it through logical and imperial validity. Many times those that undertake a research project often find they are not aware of the difference between qualitative research and quantitative research methods. The difference between qualitative and quantitative research is discussed in this essay.


To begin with, research can be defined as the creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. Research is generally used to establish and confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new and existing problems, support theories and develop new theories.

Research can be classified in many ways these include: classification by analysis, classification by purpose and finally classification by data collection where quantitative and qualitative research fall. According to Rhodes (2014) qualitative research is an examination of variables and phenomenon in a deep and comprehensive manner. It is an approach used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions and motivations. It provides insight into problems or help to develop ideas or hypothesis for potential quantitative research. Quantitative research on the other hand is oriented in gathering information, it focuses on describing a phenomenon across a larger number of participants, thereby providing the possibility of summarizing characteristics across groups of relationships an approach quantifying problem by generating numerical data or information that can be transformed into usable statistics. It is used to quantify categories, attitude, opinions, behaviors and other defined variables. Qualitative and quantitative research differ in many ways.

Compare and contrast: qualitative and quantitative research

Qualitative research involves in depth comprehensive understanding and also involves active participation by the researcher. He focuses on and names themes in text. He tells the story as he sees it, of how the themes are related to one another and how the characteristics of the speaker account for the existence of certain themes and the absence of others. The researcher describes the condition from the point of view of those experiencing it. For example, a research project on malaria in Kisumu in which qualitative research was applied, the researcher receives firsthand information from the people. He is able to account on the environment in which the subject live in for example around the shore of the lake and how it contributes to spreading Malaria, they would carry out in depth interviews with the aim of understanding who are most affected and how they try to remedy the situation. On the other hand quantitative research tends to focus on structure, it is objective oriented and thus researchers must play the role of the objective investigators.

The quantitative researcher focuses on the numerical or statistical analysis of data. It may involve direct observation of behavior, village census, allocation studies, and closed ended question in surveys with the aim of achieving objective. For example, in a research project on drugs abuse, a researcher is able to identify behavior that he/she will observe as indicators for usage of drugs, he will tally the number of youths arrested on the count of drugs and also seek to identify the drug that is mostly abused by the youth. He is then able to quantify the data for analysis.

Qualitative research investigates a small amount of data to explain many cases. It looks at specific and particular set of findings the population studied is small and keenly selected hence information from its analysis is solely limited to a particular problem. A good example is in a qualitative research project on Malaria, the researcher selects the target group and carries out an in depth study on the target group for a period of time. He is able to acquire in depth information on Malaria from studying the target group which can be used to aid solving the issue of malaria in that area. Meanwhile quantitative research uses an objective approach and it determines a particular number of data that is needed to explain only a few cases. However the population studied is large and randomly selected which means the findings can be used in other populations of a different problem statement. A good example of this is a quantitative research project on Polio, the information gathered can be applied in similar areas such as the information gathered around Machakos town on the immunization of polio to children under the age of ten showed that very few children were immunized and thus it could be easier to launch a polio campaign around this area with the findings that were gained from research.

Qualitative and quantitative research differ in the methods they use. Qualitative research uses the bottom up approach also known as the exploratory to formulate new hypothesis and theories, it tries to find solutions to problems not analyzed and also explain unknown phenomenon, it puts to use focus groups ,in depth interviews and reviews of documents for types of themes .A researcher using qualitative research employs a small focused group on farmers with the aim of finding out why they prefer using outdated methods of farming over the modern methods of cultivation. Qualitative research helps understand the why girls perform better in national examination each year. On the other hand, quantitative research uses the top down approach also known as the confirmatory method, with the aim of testing existing hypothesis and theories, the researcher does not try to come up with new theories but rather tries to find out if the existing ones work and are employs surveys structured interviews, observations and reviews of documents or record to gather numerical data. A good example in quantitative research methods is where companies carry out surveys on the client’s satisfaction by seeking feedback on services offered, through the use of questionnaires. Another example would be the number of girls who performed well in the previous national examination over the number of boys in comparison to previous years.

In regard to the nature of observation qualitative and quantitative research differ. Qualitative research studies the behaviors of the subject in their natural environment without interfering with their day to day activities, on the other hand quantitative research studies the behavior the target group under controlled conditions. A good example in qualitative research is the use of participant observation to carry out studies on the subject without interference in their daily activities however quantitative research applied the use of questionnaires which are subject to error as it takes time to fill them and also interrupts the schedule of the participant. Another way in which qualitative research differs from quantitative on the matter of observation is using participant observation you can determine why campus students prefer a certain mode of dressing over the other such as how many girls wear trousers as compared to quantitative research where the researcher would just collect data on how many female students are dressed in trousers and give a report making its findings shallow.

Moreover in qualitative research data is collected through open ended responses, interviews, participant observations, field notes and reflections quantitative research data is collected based on precise and actual measurements, using structured and validated data collection instruments such as questionnaires and review of records. Qualitative data collected is represented in prose form, texts and words whereas quantitative research records its data in numerical form and example in this cases would be when recording information in qualitative research the participants can give their opinions and ideas and hence represented as written text but in quantitative research the participants are limited to giving a numerical value to be recorded.

The role of the researcher is also another way to differentiate between qualitative and quantitative research. In quantitative research the researcher plays the role as a designer or conceptor of the methodologies, he is not known to the participants in the study and the characteristics are deliberately hidden from the researcher it’s a double blind study, take the case where a researcher develops a questionnaire the participants will not be able who formulated the questions, his biases and neither will the characteristic behavior of the participant be revealed to the researcher. Whereas in qualitative research the researcher plays an important role as an instrument rather than a conceptor of the objectives. The participants in qualitative research are able to know the researchers character and his biases in participant observation, and he is able to openly observe the characteristics of the participants hence giving an in-depth interpretation and is less prone to errors.

The structure of the final report also differs. Qualitative research the final report is presented in a narrative form with contextual description and direct quotations from research participants such a report including words quoted directly from the research participants and also in-depth description of phenomenon. Quantitative research however is presented in a statistical report with correlations, comparisons of means and statistical significance of findings such as a graphs, pie chart, or tables. However Schmied (1993) stated that both qualitative and quantitative research have something to contribute to science development.


In conclusion qualitative research and quantitative research have many differences. However the amount of data that has been gathered so far has been highly valuable as it has pushed science to the far it has reached. Thus if we can employ both qualitative and quantitative research in the projects we may be able to answer comprehensively and also conclude in a universal generalization. In the end the development of science will be greater than it has ever been.

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