Learning the difference between qualitative research vs. qualitative research is essential for every aspiring academic. In data collection and analysis, qualitative data deals with descriptors and words while quantitative data defines information in terms of numbers.

This article will help you learn more about qualitative research vs. quantitative research and highlight which type of research is right for your project.

Qualitative Research

Simply put, qualitative research is expressed in words. It aims to help people understand experiences, thoughts, and concepts. Academics engaged in qualitative research enable us to gather in-depth insights into highly complex topics.

Common qualitative research methods include observations explained in words, literature reviews exploring complex theories and concepts, and interviews with open-ended questions.

For example, researchers may conduct in-person interviews with 15 randomly picked employees where they’re asked open-ended questions. These could include questions such as “How satisfied are you with the management?”, “Does the company ensure ideal work-life balance for employees?” and “What can the management do to improve company output?”

Based on the responses, researchers can also ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insight into research questions. Depending on the answer to “How satisfied are you with the management?”, further questions could be asked on what prompted the answer, and how to improve employee satisfaction. The qualitative data, in this instance, refers to the responses collected through the interviews. To analyze unstructured textual data, researchers must leverage transcription software and understand key patterns and commonalities.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is expressed and analyzed in data charts, graphs, statistics, and numbers. It is essential for establishing generalizable facts regarding a topic and helps researchers verify or test certain assumptions and theories. Common quantitative methods include experiments, surveys with closed-ended questions, and observations recorded as numbers.

For example, a researcher could anonymously survey 100 employees at a company and ask them to rate certain aspects of working there on a scale from 1 to 10. These could include the following questions:

  • “On a scale from 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your managers?”
  • “On a scale from 1 to 10, how effectively do managers support career growth?”
  • “On a scale from 1 to 10, how well do managers deal with conflict?”

In quantitative research, researchers perform statistical analysis on the data collection. In this example, the answers are provided on a scale of 1 to 10 and can be converted into data points and be compared to baseline data or data from other companies.

Differences between Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research

Quantitative and qualitative research leverage various research methods to answer a variety of unique research questions. They also help us collect and analyze data to discover critical insights into research topics. While qualitative research focuses on in-depth responses, quantitative research is focused on numerical data analysis. We have discussed the primary differences between the two types of research in the table below:


Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research
Qualitative ResearchQuantitative research
·       Focuses on formulating a hypothesis or theory and exploring ideas·       Focuses on testing hypotheses and theories
·       Analyzed by interpreting, categorizing, and summarizing·       Analyzed through mathematical and statistical analysis
·       Mainly expressed in words·       Mainly expressed through data analysis, graphs, and numbers
·       Open-ended questions·       Closed-ended (multiple choice) questions
·       Key terms: complexity, understanding, context, subjectivity·       Key terms: objectivity, testing, measurement, replicability


Data Collection Methods

We collect qualitative and quantitative data using various methods. Both qualitative and quantitative research utilize different data collection methods. Choosing the right data collection method is critical so you can obtain the right type of data for your research.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods

  • Interview: Verbally asking open-ended questions to respondents.
  • Ethnography: Extensively engaging and participating in an organization or community to closely observe behavior and culture.
  • Literature review: Conducting a survey of academic literature by other authors.
  • Focus group: Discussing a topic among a group of people to gather opinions for extensive research.

Quantitative Data Collection Methods

  • Survey: List of closed-ended multiple-choice questions distributed to a population sample (in person, over the phone, or online).
  • Experiment: Circumstances where variables are manipulated and controlled to establish causal relationships.
  • Observation: Observing subjects in their original state or natural environment without trying to control related variables (numerical values are used to record these observations).

When to Use Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

We leverage quantitative research to test or confirm various concepts using numerical evidence. In most cases, this evidence is used to prove or disprove a hypothesis or theory. On the other hand, qualitative research is used to understand experiences, concepts, and thoughts in detail.

The ideal research method for your thesis depends on your research goals. Ask yourself the following before choosing a research method:

  • What are my research questions?
  • Am I adopting a deductive or inductive research approach?
  • Am I doing correlational, experimental, or descriptive research?

Likewise, you must think about practical considerations (i.e., access to respondents, funding, time, and availability of data) before choosing a particular research method. This is because qualitative data such as that obtained using open-ended questionnaires would take up much more time and require more resources to analyze than the quantitative data that would result from a multiple-choice questionnaire.

That being said, you are not restricted to choosing any one research method in your research. Many researchers leverage both qualitative and quantitative research methods to gather data. Others leverage a mixed methods approach to accomplish research goals.

What Is the Mixed Methods Approach?

A mixed methods research approach combines key elements of both qualitative and quantitative research to answer research questions. It gives researchers a more comprehensive overview than a standalone qualitative or quantitative study.

Researchers in health, social, behavioral sciences, and other multidisciplinary settings often leverage a mixed methods approach to study complex research problems.

In the mixed methods research approach, researchers leverage techniques from both quantitative and qualitative research. For instance, if they want to rate the performance of managers across a company, they can carry out the research in a two-step process:

First, they can conduct interviews to discover how satisfied employees are with their managers. Using open-ended questions, they can gather key details about the management, giving researchers insight into the company culture, management, and politics. Because of this in-depth knowledge, researchers can consider questions and subjects they may not have previously thought of. They can then use these questions in a large-scale survey to gather quantitative data for statistical analysis.

Likewise, it’s also possible to conduct a survey to discover overall trends and follow it up with interviews to understand topics in greater detail.

Finding the right research method for your thesis is not easy. If you’re an aspiring research, consider our in-depth scientific editorial review. Our Ph.D. scholars have years of knowledge and experience to help you achieve your research goals.