What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative research?
This is an important question for every researcher, as a researcher you should know the basic difference between the two. There is a clear and well defined divide between these two types of researches that one can easily understand. In quantitative research the type of information sought, type of data, variables, study design and analysis of data will be completely different from that in qualitative research. This means that quantitative research is different from qualitative research because both research studies uses different methodology and typology and hence it is a broad classification of research. Between these two methods of research there is another research method and hence another classification of research called as mixed-method research. Mixed-method research is comparatively latest method of conducting research. Mixed-method research uses both qualitative and quantitative data, variables and analysis to undertake the research. This method is gaining popularity because it is more research-friendly and has greater possibilities. In depth information is obtained using mixed method research.
Another clear difference between the two types of research is the paradigm that form the basis of the research. Quantitative research follows positivism while qualitative research follows the paradigm of constructivism. Positivist researchers believe that the answer to the research question lies in logical, mathematical or statistical treatment of data. Anti-positivists or constructivism based researchers believe that in depth information can only be obtained by studying the behaviors of individuals and groups. Both paradigms have importance in research and in different fields of life the researchers use one or the other paradigm and hence the method of research. In a mixed-method research the researcher uses both paradigms and some researchers working on qualitative research uses positivist paradigm. However, there is a clear difference between the two types of research qualitative research and quantitative research. No matter what paradigm the researcher works within but within that paradigm the researcher should keep to certain values of research like objectivity and validity.
How Qualitative research is different from quantitative research?
Quantitative research is different from qualitative research in three regards which are as follows.
The aim of the study
Every research study has an aim, a purpose and some goals that the researcher wants to achieve, from this view point the research can be classified as quantitative and qualitative. In research the researcher studies a situation, phenomenon, problem or issue and if the researcher aims at studying a quantifiable situation the research is classified as quantitative research. Quantitative research quantifies data, variables and uses statistical analysis to reach at the conclusion. Some times the purpose or aim of the research is to describe a situation, phenomenon or problem and such research is qualitative in nature. The researcher investigates an in depth information and describes the situation. The purpose of the research is to describe, enumerate or explore and not to explain. Most of the exploratory studies that researchers conduct before starting the actual research are qualitative in nature.
Measurement of the variables
The way you measure the variables in a study highly determines whether the study is qualitative or quantitative in nature. Quantitative research is different form qualitative research in the measurement of the variables. Both studies use different scales of measurement in the research. Qualitative measurement scales include nominal and ordinal scales and the purpose of these scales is to measure mostly the attitudes and behaviors of people. Qualitative variables can have one, two or three values or categories. In a quantitative research the variables are measured on interval or ratio scales. In quantitative research the variables can have more than one, two or three values and the variable can take any form. For example age of the population can be 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and so on and similarly number of years in a service can be 1, 2, 3 or so on. There is a distinctive divide between the qualitative variables and their measurement scales scales.
Analysis of the data
In quantitative research the analysis of the data is done using the statistical tools. Statistics is not an integral part of quantitative research but it is a tool that helps the researcher reach the analysis. In quantitative research there is a clear null hypothesis and the researcher clearly accepts or rejects the null hypothesis. The use of statistical analysis in quantitative research helps the researcher put confidence in his research findings. The use of statistics also adds to the validity and generalizability of the research so statistics is an important tool in quantitative research. In qualitative research the researcher can or cannot use statistical analysis. In some qualitative researches the researcher converts the qualitative variables into measurable variables by using measurement scales and hence he can use statistical analysis. Some time the information obtained in qualitative research is purely descriptive in nature like in historical and ethnographic research, you cannot apply statistical tools to a descriptive research neither you need to apply statistical tools to such research.