Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and methods play vital roles in social research. Qualitative research uses more of a scientific approach to gather information. In many cases, qualitative research method uses a systematic way of predefined procedures to answer research questions. On the other hand, quantitative research methodology is based on issues of personal or professional interest or a general study area. Quantitative methodologies are designed in such a manner that the information gathered is in numerical form.
Qualitative methodologies are used because of the following strengths: diverse social groups and their homogeneous views can be explored; underlying beliefs, assumptions and values in social-cultural assessments can be revealed; and context or complexity of data can be retained in case information is simplified. The drawbacks in qualitative research methods include: more consumption of time; invalid data because of lack of verification; the research method can only be carried on a small population; and it addresses a few research needs.
Quantitative research methodologies are preferred because of the following strengths: since most of the data is in numerical form, data evaluation can be done immediately it is received; data collected can be analyzed using different statistical tests; and more information can be gained after interpreting the analysis. Quantitative suffers from several weaknesses: errors occur when designing solutions because the only data collected is numerical; few people can statistically analyze and interpret data from quantitative methods; and finally, underlying assumptions, beliefs and values are left out in the collected information.
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Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and methods play vital roles in social research. Information and data from quantitative research such as demographics, market size and user preferences, provide information that is important in solving a certain organizational issue. Qualitative research methodologies enable researchers to collect information that may be useful in explanation of certain behavior patterns. The two research methodologies have specific differences that determine which one should be used in a certain research. Qualitative research methodologies pertain the techniques and methods described as anthropological, field, naturalistic, ethnographic or observer research. This methodology emphasizes on the value of looking at variables in the natural settings where they are found. Open-ended questions help in gathering of the important information required. Quantitative methodologies, on the other hand, are concerned with testing hypotheses that have been obtained from theory or those that can estimate the phenomenon of interest. Based on research questions, participants might get different treatments. Data is collected this way in order to ensure that the findings are in numerals, and dependent and independent variables as well as the outcomes are not influenced. Although quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are used interchangeably, each one of them has weaknesses and strengths as critically evaluated in this article.
There are several differences that lie between quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Qualitative research method is not exploratory but it can be used in confirmation. The main difference is that qualitative research is mainly concerned with the processes rather than products or outcomes of the research (Bahari, 2010). Quantitative method on the other hand is deductive and confirmatory. Quantitative work can also be referred to as exploratory work in some instances. Quantitative method is the best method that can be used when approaching the world and data. The methodological congruence in quantitative method is not always pre-determined for the researcher. Qualitative methodology is mostly aimed at investigating how individuals make sense in their experiences, structure of the world and their lives as well.
Qualitative method of research involves tedious fieldwork. It involves an act where the researcher goes to the field to physically meet people in the society to question, observe and record their behaviors when in their natural settings. In qualitative method, the researcher is the main instrument used for collecting data and analyzing it (Belk, 2013). Data is therefore mediated through people as instruments rather than machines or inventories. In qualitative research methodology, the behavior of people is influenced by the setting in which qualitative data collection occurs. For instance, the physical setting like space, pay and schedules can vary depending on the context of the study. Validity of data in quantitative methodology is ensured through definitions and clarification by use of guiding experiments.
Quantitative research methodology involves trying out instruments before the main experiment by; confirming the workability with experts, carrying out experimental tests and assessing the instrument’s reliability. Quantitative research method can also be divided into experimental, inferential or simulation methods of carrying out research. Quantitative method provides the researcher with the freedom to be flexible in choosing a particular path in data analysis (Belk, 2013). Qualitative research method does not only entail performing techniques but also usage of techniques like tools in order to manipulate data to come to a goal. Quantitative research method is naturally empirical and is mostly used scientifically. It is through quantitative method that validity is ensures in the research process.
Qualitative method of a research is more of a scientific approach of carrying out a study. The method seeks to find answers for a particular question or issue at hand. In many cases, qualitative research method uses a systematic way of predefined procedures in answering the questions. Evidence is then collected from procedures that had not been determined in advance. According to Brown (2010), qualitative research method seeks to understand more about a given problem. This is in respect and according to the perspective of the local population that is involved. The qualitative research method is therefore useful especially in obtaining of information from different cultures.
The information obtained can be about opinion, values, behaviors and social contexts of given social cultural groups. There are a number of qualitative methods of carrying out a research. Some of these methods are such as interviews which carried out in an in-depth manner. The other data collection methods are participant or researcher’s observation and focus groups. These different methods are crucial in collection of different kind of information (Brown, 2010). Qualitative data collected from qualitative research methods are such as; audio tapings or videos, transcripts and field notes. Focus group as a method of collecting data is useful in eliciting of information from cultural norms.
The methods are also important when the cultural norm of a given group is big and helps in deriving broad views of the issues at hand to the subgroups represented by the cultural group. Participant observation is important when collecting information of naturally occurring behaviors and when they are in their usual contexts (Bowen, 2009). In-depth interviews can be used for collecting information concerning the history of an individual, an individual’s experiences or perspectives especially concerning sensitive topics or issues in the society. Other methods of collecting qualitative data are; use of self-study, action research or ethnography.
There are reasons as to why qualitative data methodology is preferred when carrying out social researches. One of the strengths of qualitative method is because it gives the researcher a chance to explore both the diverse groups and homogeneous views of a particular social group. This also assists the researcher to completely understand the perspectives by which the groups handle an issue (Bowen, 2009). Interviews for example, can yield more information than could be yielded from carrying out surveys. This is because of the existence social capital between people when requesting a group of individuals to respond to a particular question.
The other most important strength in qualitative data approach is that it has the ability to dig for the underlying beliefs, assumptions and values when carrying out a social-cultural assessment. It is always advisable to understand the driving force to a particular behavior in an organization or community. Understanding the reason behind their behavior helps the researcher to gain full appreciation of such an organization (Bowen, 2009). The enquiry gotten from a qualitative research method is wide and open-minded. This makes the participants to be able to raise issues most important to them and hence tackle a broader area. This is mainly because the researcher does not have preconceived list of issues that should be tackled.
Qualitative research method is important when managing and simplifying information without destroying its context or complexity. The other strength is that qualitative methods are useful when questions about preemptive reduction are being tackled to prevent discovery. There is the advantage of using qualitative methods because they generate new ways of viewing the data that is already existing (Bowen, 2009). It can even be used in generation of a theory of theoretical framework that reflects the reality of an issue rather than using the researchers own perspective of seeing things. In cases where the aim of the study was to understand a particular phenomenon in detail, the person carrying out the study needs to have methods for discovery of main themes and useful in analyzing the main issues.
Further, the other strength of qualitative methods of data collection is that even if qualitative data consists of words, qualitative data can be synchronized to deliver better results. In other words, the qualitative data can be coded in a quantitative manner by assigning meaningful numerical values to the data (Masny, 2016). The values can further be changed or manipulated to help the researcher to achieve higher insight of what the data meant and hence examine the hypotheses. Collecting qualitative data therefore does not mean that data cannot be quantified. There are almost infinite ways in which the data can be quantified from qualitative. The qualitative form of information is however not interfered with after data has been quantified.
Performing qualitative research e.g. carrying out interviews ensures that the interviewer can make the interviewee maintain focus until the interview is over. This is unlike some methods such as surveys conducted via the phone which can be interrupted by calls or text messages before the respondent is through (Lloyd and Hopkins, 2015). The interviews are thus free from technological distractions. The emotions and behaviors of the interviewee can be captured in qualitative method unlike when the survey is carried out online and therefore honest data is collected. The researcher is given the advantage of using information that is not traditional. The data derived here is first-hand from the interviewee.
Qualitative research method has a number of drawbacks. One of the major weaknesses is that qualitative method is time consuming. Carrying out interviews with different individuals or even a single interviewee takes time. The other weakness is that there is the possibility of the interviewer to overlook a particular issue than other issues. Many times the researcher tends to dwell much at a particular issue especially if the respondent is interested in participating (Bahn and Weatherill, 2011). The other issue in most cases may go unnoticed. The researcher’s interpretation may be limited and may only be positioned to subjects, the individual experience, knowledge of the individual and conclusions.
Due to the open-mindedness of qualitative research method, the responded is in most cases likely to take over the content of information that is being collected. The other weakness is that data collected qualitatively is not verifiable and it may therefore mislead the researcher. After collection, qualitative data has a disadvantage because it is labor intensive when analyzing it (Aveling, Gillespie and Cornish, 2014). The analysis process like recording and categorizing the information is intensive and tiring. The other weakness of qualitative research method is that only skilled interviewers can be able to conduct it successfully. Qualitative research method is disadvantageous as the researcher may have problems with human language when carrying out interviews.
The other main limitation of qualitative research is that corpus analysis findings to this method cannot be extended to wider population like it can be done with quantitative analysis. The reason behind this is because the results are not derived to know whether they are statistically significant or whether the findings are due to chance (Lloyd and Hopkins, 2015). Qualitative analysis aims at giving detailed and complete description of the data. There is however no attempt that is made in assigning frequencies to language or linguistic features that is in the information. A phenomenon that is rare receives equal amount of attention as a phenomenon that is more frequent.
Only finer distinctions and conclusions can be drawn from qualitative data. Another limitation of qualitative research is that gives proper response to only a few but not all the researcher’s needs. Researchers can therefore be in the field for the wrong reasons. The validity of the information obtained from qualitative research is questionable because there is no way one can tell how truthful the respondents are (Gundert-Remy, 2009). Further there is another limitation as the researcher cannot determine how much energy the respondents have put in before responding. At times the respondents just answers or gives responses without putting a thought to the question.
The other weakness of using qualitative research is that different people may read questionnaire differently and end up giving invalid answers. The other thing about some qualitative data collection methods like observational research can be considered as too subjective. It can also be considered as convert when the ethical principles have been contravened (Masny, 2016). In most cases, the information collected can be overt in observational research because people tend to change their behavior when subjected to observation. The other limitation is that the researcher cannot be able to observe an issue that was in the past. Observation alone cannot give complete answers to the issue being tackled. Observation as a qualitative research method cannot be able to sample the opinions.
Quantitative research study is a process that starts with selection of a research topic. Quantitative researchers look at issues of personal or professional interest, or a general study area. The area is then narrowed down through a research question that the study tries to address. This usually follows a systematic literature review as well as development of hypothesis which are drawn from social theories (Mayer, 2015). In order to come up with a good study on samples or cases to be used, decisions have to be made considerably. One has to also consider the research techniques like experiments or questionnaires and other factors to be employed. Quantitative research methods include questionnaires that are standardized and are administered to households or individuals. They are identified using different sampling forms such as random sampling. However, in order to decide on a way to come up with sample size, researchers have to employ various non-probability or probability approaches.
Once a sample has been established, collection of data follows. Quantitative data or information is carefully recorded and verified. Often, the information here is in form of numbers. They are then stored in a computer-readable format. With quantitative data, one can establish how outcomes and variables correlate. With the collected and stored data, different researchers can validate original findings through independent replication of analysis. McCusker and Gunaydin (2015) argue that after data collection and storage, the most important step in the quantitative research methodologies is data analysis and interpretation. In data analysis, computer generated outputs, in large quantities, are obtained. Researchers then interpret the results in order to give them some meaning. Using the research questions, background knowledge on the field of study, and the topic, the researcher is able to draw a theory. At this point, the researcher is able to look at the alternative interpretations as well as the results of studies that were done previously. Quantitative research methodology ends up with a written report in accordance to the required format.
Quantitative research methodology assumes that social reality has a purpose, and that individuals are agents who respond to that purpose. Quantitative research mainly encompasses measuring of events, counting as well as accomplishing the statistical analysis of the numerical data. Legit data collected through quantitative research methods has been collected rigorously, using accurate methods, and critically analyzed to be reliable. Quantitative research methods use several approaches or different quantitative data collection methods that form a basis for its strengths. The approaches include administration of surveys with various close-ended questions, experiments or trials, observation and recording of events that are well-defined, and collection of information from the relevant management information systems (Yilmaz, 2013).
In the Quantitative methods, there are several advantages that can be drawn. A survey can be administered quickly and be evaluated immediately (Carr, 1994). One does not need to use a lot of time doing organizations before taking the survey. It is also possible to tabulate responses in a limited timeframe. The other strength is that, numerical data which has been obtained enables one to conduct comparisons between groups and organizations. The researcher can also be able to determine extents in which respondents disagreed or agreed.
Since data is in numeric form, statistical tests can be applied in order to interpret and make statements about that data. Some of the statistical tests that apply on numerical data include descriptive statistics such as standard deviation, median and mean. Reio (2016) points out that inferential statistics can also be used. They include ANOVAs, t-tests and multiple regression correlations (MRC). This strength enables researchers to derive facts that are important from the research data. One can obtain the variations or trends that exist in populations, groups and demographics.
The other essential strength on quantitative research methodology is the fact that some multivariate statistics such as correlation regression or MRC provide more details like preferences and variances, that can be attributed to variations between particular populations such as age groups. In addition to data collection methods such as survey, qualitative methodologies uses other static methods such as examination of preferences using forced-choice studies, two- choice studies as well as time on task via competitive benchmarks (Yauch and Steudel, 2003).
Basically, quantitative research methodologies have a variety of strengths. The greatest strength is the fact that it provides descriptive information. For instance, people can capture the user population at a glance despite the difficulties encountered in their interpretation. This is because, from numerical data, graphs and charts can be created (Mayer, 2015). In quantitative methodologies, research problems are stated in set and specific terms. One does not have to struggle searching for the problem in which the research is seeking to solve. Understanding the problem helps in understanding the research method applied.
Quantitative methods also precisely and clearly specify the dependent and dependent variables that are being investigated. This is a strength because the individual looking at the research is able to tell what the study investigates, or seeks to find. The other strength is that quantitative methodologies firmly follow research goals that have been set (Walker, 2013). This firm follow-up ensures that objective conclusions are arrived at, hypothesis are accurately tested and the issues of causality in the research are solved. The manipulations within quantitative methodologies ensure that the research is highly reliable, because different forms of research manipulations have been applied. Such manipulations include mass surveys, laboratory experiments and controlled observations. The other strength is that subjects of judgement are minimized, or completely eliminated.
In environments that develop products, deficiencies in collected data leads to critical errors in the process of designing products. For instance, If a quantitative research method is used, and survey data collection method is applied, a company might get the impression that a lot of product users love 3D displays. This may cause the organization to manufacture a product that integrates 3D display onto it. However, if product users like using autostereoscopic 3D displays, where glasses are not worn, or only love to watch television, action movies and sports using 3D displays, integrating the feature on a new product such as a mobile device would be a huge error in the design.
One weakness in quantitative research methodologies is that only individuals that have a firm grasp of qualitative research can conduct it because they understand how qualitative statistics can be used and interpreted. For more tests, quantitative methods over-rely on the sample size and the p-value. In statistics, p-values indicate the likelihood that the findings of the research resulted from chances. For instance, if p-value is not more than 0.05, one can conclude that research findings are statistically significant, that is, they less than 5 percent resulted from chances (Haegele and Hodge, 2015). Basically, only individuals that have significant knowledge of quantitative methodologies are able to successfully use and interpret the data.
The strengths of quantitative methodologies can also, in a way, be weaknesses. Most characteristics of communities and people from different cultures and classes, including the poor and the rich, for instance beliefs, perceptions and identities cannot be reduced into numeric in a meaningful manner. In addition, the characteristics cannot be understood in an adequate manner without referring it to the local context where people live. If quantitative methods are used in such contexts, a lot of information would be left out, and the research would not be reliable (Meyer-Krahmer, 2009).
For qualitative research methodologies to be effective, a big sample size is necessary. Sometimes several thousand households are required. The weakness in this type of a research is that resources for large-scale research may lack and stop the research from happening. In most countries, particularly those that are developing, and the interested groups, resources and skills much needed to conduct research using quantitative methodology lack. This hinders the interested researchers from carrying out their research (Dudwick et al., 2006).
Quantitative methodologies have a major weakness, that is, lack of sufficient information. When conducting quantitative research using survey on a certain disaster, an in-depth description of the experience of the population that is affected is left out. The methodology only provides the number of individuals affected as well as their location. If agencies want to help the populations, knowledge of the locations and the number of individuals is not sufficient for what should be planned for in terms of response. A lot of essential is usually not included in the methodology because the type of research only considers large amounts of numbers than the other information (Yauch and Steudel, 2003)
This type of research does not consider the underlying assumptions, beliefs or values. If the research is focused to find out about the behavior of a certain group of people, very few amounts of data would be collected, leaving behind some of the most essential ones. Quantitative methodology does not allow open-minded and broad enquiry. In this case, people fail to raise matters that are most important to them.
Regardless of the kind of methodology that is employed in carrying out a social research, qualitative or quantitative methods can be used purposely. Choosing a type of methodology entails embracing its advantages as well as limitations in the results and output. Quantitative research methodology however takes a more professional approach of undertaking a research. Quantitative research can be administered very quickly for there is no extra time that is spent in an organization trying to carry out surveys. Quantitative research is the only way that data in different groups and large populations can be collected and comparisons be made between the groups. The numerical data collected facilitates the comparison of the information between different groups. This kind of data can be relied on and also be critically analyzed. Qualitative research methodology on the other hand is time consuming and most of all the information collected cannot be verified in any way. Although data collected qualitatively can be converted to numerical, it is tiresome and difficult to analyze such information. No clear comparisons can be carried out between groups or large population. Beliefs and opinions between groups in quantitative research cannot be determined unlike qualitative research method. It is always up to the researcher to choose what type of research method they want to employ.
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