Quantitative research is the systematic experimental study of social phenomena using scientific, statistical or mathematical and computational procedures.
Measurement forms the backbone of quantitative research since it offers a link between empirical examination and mathematical expression of relationships. The main objective in this design is developing and using mathematical models, hypotheses and theories in relation to phenomena.
Qualitative research is the process of gathering data based on the importance of observations through a systematic, thorough inquiry into a problem, situation or a society with the aim of generating new facts or authenticating the existing knowledge.
In this research the phenomena under study are hard to measure mathematically such as attitudes, beliefs, meanings, attributes and culture. Therefore, it is the analysis, assessment and interpretation of observations in determining the fundamental significance and nature of phenomena, relationships and units without using mathematical models.
Characteristics of quantitative research
Methods and measurements
Quantitative research uses several methods such as surveys and questionnaires, experiments in case controlled studies as well as tracking and cohort studies. Surveys and questionnaires enable the researchers to place numerical values on opinions or attributes. Experiments in case controlled studies enable one to control environmental factors under study.
Cohort studies involve placing people of the same characteristics in a cohort and then measuring the changes in comparison to the control, group. Basically this design is based on numbers and figures that are less in-depth but broad in information on a number of cases. The responses for the data have fixed options for instance in questionnaires.
Use of statistics
Quantitative research applies statistical tests and methods such as data collection, data recording, and formulation of hypothesis which is based on theories. Causal relationships are also established using mathematical tools. Correlation analysis for instance is mostly applied in measuring causality.
Quantitative research offers experimental effects that are interpreted by the researchers of a situation, problem or project. This is mainly because it is based on facts obtained from surveys or interviews or questionnaires from the respondents. Additionally, in this design the research is independent of what is being researched. The findings of the research can be valid and accurate depending on the instrument or measurement device being used.
Quantitative research involves a confirmatory or “top down” scientific technique which is used primarily for explanation, description, and prediction. A deductive procedure is used to test pre-stated models, constructs, and hypotheses that forms the structure of a theory
Characteristics of qualitative research
Qualitative research uses naturalistic inquiry, emergent design flexibility and purposeful sampling. Naturalistic inquiry involves having no predetermined limitations on findings and studying the real situations as they occur without controlling them.
Emergent design flexibility involves being open to adjusting inquiry as situations change or get deeper. Purposeful sampling involves selecting population that is rich in information like cultures, communities, events, organizations and so on to get the insight of the phenomenon.
Data collection and fieldwork strategies
Qualitative research focuses on personal experience and engagement, qualitative data, mindfulness and emphatic neutrality, dynamic systems and an inside view with an objective mind. These are necessary to ensure in-depth information which is objective and valid is obtained even in sensitive circumstances.
Qualitative research uses methods like focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, ethnography, observation and review of documents on the theme. The information is text based and has greater detailed information based on few cases. The responses do not have fixed options since they can be structured or semi-structured.
Facts in this design are based on the description of a problem or situation according to those experiencing it. Therefore the validity, precision and reliability of the data rely on the skill or expertise of the researcher and the willingness and reliability of the source.
Qualitative and quantitative research differ in a number of ways including; methods of data collection and fieldwork strategies, nature of data collected, design strategies as well as situations in which they can be used.
Qualitative research is used in complex situations that require deep and qualitative data. It is also applicable in abstract situations like studying culture and behavior in which case cannot be quantified.
However, these two designs more often than not serve to complement one another. Qualitative research can be seen as the precursor of quantitative research because it produces probable guides and innovations to formulate a practical and testable hypothesis. The hypothesis can then be expansively tested and scientifically examined, through standard quantitative research techniques.