Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research


Different types of projects demand different types of research. For instance, the process that goes into writing a paper on a scientific experiment is vastly different from that of a history thesis. So how can you separate these types of research, and which kind is right for your project? Below, we describe the two most common types of research: Qualitative and Quantitative.

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative Research is primarily exploratory research. Think of it as a means to solidifying or narrowing down a broad topic. Some ways researchers conduct qualitative research are through conducting interviews, participating in group discussions, or through observation. Its goal is to provide further insight into the topic, or to develop ideas for potential quantitative research.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research is far more structured than its counterpart, and is used to present numerical data or data that can be transformed into usable statistics. It can describe specific attitudes, opinions, or behaviors, and can lead to inferences about larger groups. Often, quantitative research can take the form of surveys, studies, or polls.

Which Should You Use?

First, it is important to note that these two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and complement each other very well within the same research project. For example, a qualitative approach might be used in the first stage of a study when little is known about the subject. When quantitative methods are added later, the qualitative findings can help interpret the quantitative data

Before you get started, with your research you should ask yourself the following questions:

Are you interested in causal relationships and want to explore correlations between different variables?


Are you interested in people’s subjective experiences and the meaning they attribute to what happens in their daily lives?

For example, if you want to study the effect healthy eating has on heart disease probability, you probably want to use quantitative methods. You would seek to draw correlations between people’s diets and their heart disease results. However, in contrast, if you want to understand why people are attracted to certain diet plans over others, you may want to conduct interviews and observations thus employing a qualitative approach.

The most important thing to remember is to make sure that your research question clearly reflects the methodology that is going to be used.

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