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The difference between quantitative vs. qualitative research

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Quantitative and qualitative research are complementary methods that you can combine in your surveys to get results that are both wide-reaching and deep.

Simply put, quantitative data gets you the numbers to prove the broad general points of your research. Qualitative data brings you the details and the depth to understand their full implications.

To get the best results from these methods in your surveys, it’s important that you understand the differences between them. Let’s have a look.

What’s the difference between quantitative research and qualitative research?

The definition of quantitative research

Quantitative data is designed to collect cold, hard facts. Numbers. Quantitative data is structured and statistical. It provides support when you need to draw general conclusions from your research.

The definition of qualitative research

Qualitative data collects information that seeks to describe a topic more than measure it. Think of impressions, opinions, and views. A qualitative survey is less structured: It seeks to delve deep into the topic at hand to gain information about people’s motivations, thinking, and attitudes. While this brings depth of understanding to your research questions, it also makes the results harder to analyze.

When to use qualitative vs. quantitative research

Quantitative data can help you see the big picture. Qualitative data adds the details and can also give a human voice to your survey results.

Let’s see how to use each method in a research project.

  • Formulating hypotheses: Qualitative research helps you gather detailed information on a topic. You can use it to initiate your research by discovering the problems or opportunities people are thinking about. Those ideas can become hypotheses to be proven through quantitative research.
  • Validating your hypotheses: Quantitative research will get you numbers that you can apply statistical analysis to in order to validate your hypotheses. Was that problem real or just someone’s perception? The hard facts obtained will enable you to make decisions based on objective observations.
  • Finding general answers: Quantitative research usually has more respondents than qualitative research because it is easier to conduct a multiple-choice survey than a series of interviews or focus groups. Therefore it can help you definitely answer broad questions like: Do people prefer you to your competitors? Which of your company’s services are most important? What ad is most appealing?
  • Incorporating the human element: Qualitative research can also help in the final stages of your project. The quotes you obtained from open-ended questions can put a human voice to the objective numbers and trends in your results. Many times it helps to hear your customers describe your company in their own words to uncover your blind spots. Qualitative data will get you that.

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