Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Approach

Any data can be analyzed using two different approaches, as it is collected – known as Qualitative and Quantitative Research. While Qualitative Research deals with words, their context, and meanings; Quantitative Research deals with numbers and statistics. Each of these research types has different objectives, patterns, and methods. Both of them, however, are equally important in an application for gaining knowledge. A lot of people get confused, including people in the research sector, when they are asked to differentiate between Qualitative and Quantitative Research. The lines that divide both of them are thin in some of the cases.

In Quantitative Research, a large set of people are investigated with questionnaires where multiple answers are posed with an open end. In Qualitative Research, a small set of people are investigated and asked to submit themselves to the product, and their behavior details are recorded from time to time, considering them as a sample. 

So to define them, Qualitative Research identifies the abstract concepts while Quantitative Research is known for collecting the numerical data. The substantial differences in the actions are applied based on the size of the data samples.

Qualitative Research Definition

Qualitative Research is used to understand human behavior, patterns, experiences, intentions, and attitudes; based on the observation and interpretation of people. It is an exploratory technique that deals with the complicated phenomena that are not at all possible.

Quantitative Research Definition

Quantitative Research relies on the sciences that develops numerical data and creates hard facts. It also establishes the cause and effect between two variables using computational and statistical methods. As a result, the results in this method are precise, labeling it as Empirical Research.

Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research

Used for a better understanding of humans, personalities as well as social sciences. Through this method, one can form patterns and plot graphs that can be applicable to the sampling communities. 

Used to generate numbers using a lot of mathematical, statistical and logical techniques. 

It has a subjective approach

It has an objective approach. 

It is holistic in nature and stays honest to the data on which the research is being formed. 

It is particularistic in nature and is often modulated. 

The inductive reasoning is used to synthesize the data in this method. 

The deductive reasoning is used to synthesize the data in this method. 

It involves a process-oriented interrogation. 

It doesn’t involve a process-oriented interrogation. 

Provides an initial understanding of the data.

Provides a final course of action for a problem.

Most of the data is verbal.

All the data is measurable. 

The objective of this research is to discover ideas and be engaged in them.

The objective of this research is to understand the cause and effect between variables.

It is an exploratory research method. 

It is a conclusive research method.

Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods and Examples 

Data Collection Methods

Quantitative Research:

  • Observations: Observing people where variables can't be controlled.

  • Experiments: Situations in which variables can be controlled but are often manipulated to establish cause and effect relations.

  • Surveys: List of multiple choices that are given to a particular sample in any form.

  • Content Analysis: Systematic recording of themes and words in texts to identify the communication patterns.

Qualitative Research:

  • Ethnography: Participating in a community for a longer period to observe behavior or culture

  • Literature Review: Survey of already published works by others

  • Interviews: Asking open verbal questions for people to answer.

  • Focus Groups: Discussions between a group of people about one topic for gathering opinions that can be used for research. 

  • Case-Studies: An in-depth study about a group, event, organization, element, or person. 


Quantitative Research: 

You conduct a survey at your university with 250 students. You ask them questions like "How satisfied are you with your professor's teaching, on a scale of 1-10?" You then collect the data and perform a statistical analysis to draw conclusions as "On an average, the students rated the professor with 4".

Qualitative Research:

You conduct in-depth interviews with 15 students. You approach them with questions as in, "How satisfied are you with the curriculum?" or "What is the most interesting element about your program?" and "What do you think can better your program?". Based on the answers you get, you can either ask to follow up questions for getting clarification or use transcription software to find patterns for providing solutions. 

Mixed Research: 

You conduct interviews to see how students are dealing with their studies. Through both open-ended questions and surveys, you can learn about things that wouldn't usually surface. You will be able to collect new insights so that you can use them for a larger scale. It is also possible to start the survey to get hold of the trends, followed by the one-one interviews to find the reason for these trends. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why and When Do We Use Quantitative and Qualitative Research?

Quantitative Research is used to know the underlying motivations, reasons, opinions, and behavioral patterns. With the help of the results, we can form insights to clear the problems. Similarly, Quantitative Research helps in developing the hypothesis and ideas. While Qualitative Research is useful in uncovering the trends and happenings, you can use mixed methods for solving problems across various fields. A thumb rule for deciding when to use which research method is:

  • You can use the Quantitative Research method in case you want to test a theory or hypothesis.

  • You can use the Qualitative Research method in case you want to understand concepts, experiences, and thoughts.

2. How to Comprehend the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative?

Understanding the difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research can only be done by understanding the key fields and then learning to bifurcate them. For example, a lot of fields, including Science, Economics, Technology, and Business use two ways of conducting research; one is Qualitative, and the other is Quantitative. Qualitative Research relies on the written data, and Quantitative Research uses logical observations to arrive at a conclusion. For an accurate analysis, in most cases, you would require both quantitative and qualitative research which means Mixed Research would be a preferred way to move forward in if you want to use surveys on any research applications.