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Monday, August 15, 2011

Quantitative and Qualitative research

-In Miles and Huberman's 1994 book Qualitative Data Analysis, quantitative researcher Fred Kerlinger is quoted as saying, "There's no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0" (p. 40).

-To this another researcher, D. T. Campbell, asserts "all research ultimately has a qualitative grounding" (p. 40).

- This back and forth banter among qualitative and quantitative researchers is "essentially unproductive" according to Miles and Huberman.

-They and many other researchers agree that these two research methods need each other more often than not.

It is important for researchers to realize that qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in conjunction with each other

-Quantitative and qualitative methods are studied within the context of positivistic and phenomenological paradigms .

-Some of the basic tools for qualitative or quantitative research are related to data collection methods which can be case studies, questionnaires or interviews (Simon et al, 1985).

The researche can be quantitative or qualitative or even both. Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. Here a process is expressed or described in terms of one or more quantities. Qualitative research is concerned with quailtative phenomenon involving quality. It is non-numerical,descriptive, applies reasoning and uses words. Its aim is to get the meaning, feeling and describe the situation. We measure and weigh things in the study of substance or structure. Can we measure or weigh patterns? We cannot measure or weigh patterns. But to study patterns we must map a configuration of relationships. That is, structures involve quantities whereas patterns involve qualities. If one wishes to investigate why certain data are random then it is a qualitative research. If the aim is to study how random the data is, what is the mean,variance and distribution function then it becomes quantitative. Explaining how digestion of food takes place in our body is a qualitative description. It does not involve any numbers or data and quantities. The detection of a particular compound is a qualitative analysis. This can be done by carrying out physical or chemical tests. Determination of exact amount of a particular compound present in a volume is essentially quantitative analysis. This can be done by volumetric, gravimetric and calorimetric methods or instrumental methods. Experimental and simulation studies are generally quantitative research.


Quantitative research methods focus on statistical approaches .

Quantitative methods emphasise on objective measurements and numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires or surveys

while quantitative involves many phenomena with few variables

quantitative data involves numbers
quantitative research is deductive

all quantitative research requires a hypothesis before research can begin

In quantitative research, the researcher is ideally an objective observer that neither participates in nor influences what is being studied.
quantitative research is generally better for confirming and clarifying.

To quantify data and generalize results from a sample to the population of interest

To measure the incidence of various views and opinions in a chosen sample

Sometimes followed by qualitative research which is used to explore some findings further


Qualitative methods are based on content analysis, comparative analysis, grounded theory, and interpretation (Strauss, 1990).

qualitative research focuses on understanding social phenomena through interviews, personal comments etc.

Qualitative research usually involves few cases with many variables

typically qualitative data involves words
qualitative research is inductive

In qualitative research, a hypothesis is not needed to begin research

In qualitative research, however, it is thought that the researcher can learn the most about a situation by participating and/or being immersed in it.
qualitative research is usually better for exploring, understanding, and uncovering,

To gain an understanding of underlying reasons and motivations

To provide insights into the setting of a problem, generating ideas and/or hypotheses for later quantitative research

To uncover prevalent trends in thought and opinion

Quantitative / qualitative debate

There is some debate over whether "quantitative research" and "qualitative research" methods can be complementary: some researchers argue that combining the two approaches is beneficial and helps build a more complete picture of the social world, while other researchers believe that the epistemologies that underpin each of the approaches are so divergent that they cannot be reconciled within a research project.

While quantitative methods are based on a natural science, positivist model of testing theory, qualitative methods are based on interpretivism and are more focused around generating theories and accounts. Positivists treat the social world as something that is 'out there', external to the social scientist and waiting to be researched. Interpretivists, on the other hand believe that the social world is constructed by social agency and therefore any intervention by a researcher will affect social reality. Herein lies the supposed conflict between quantitative and qualitative approaches - quantitative approaches traditionally seek to minimise intervention in order to produce valid and reliable statistics, whereas qualitative approaches traditionally treat intervention as something that is necessary (often arguing that participation can lead to a better understanding of a social situation).

However, it is increasingly recognised that the significance of these differences should not be exaggerated and that quantitative and qualitative approaches can be complementary. They can be combined in a number of ways, for example:

Qualitative methods can be used in order to develop quantitative research tools. For example, focus groups could be used to explore an issue with a small number of people and the data gathered using this method could then be used to develop a quantitative survey questionnaire that could be administered to a far greater number of people allowing results to be generalised.

Qualitative methods can be used to explore and facilitate the interpretation of relationships between variables. For example researchers may inductively hypothesize that there would be a positive relationship between positive attitudes of sales staff and the amount of sales of a store. However, quantitative, deductive, structured observation of 576 convenience stores could reveal that this was not the case, and in order to understand why the relationship between the variables was negative the researchers may undertake qualitative case studies of four stores including participant observation. This might abductively confirm that the relationship was negative, but that it was not the positive attitude of sales staff that led to low sales, but rather that high sales led to busy staff who were less likely to be express positive emotions at work!

Quantitative methods are useful for describing social phenomena, especially on a larger scale. Qualitative methods allow social scientists to provide richer explanations (and descriptions) of social phenomena, frequently on a smaller scale. By using two or more approaches researchers may be able to 'triangulate' their findings and provide a more valid representation of the social world.

Lecture notes prepared by Biju P R,Assistant Professor in Political Science,Govt Brennen College Thalassery


  1. Hello,

    The two primary research methods are qualitative and quantitative. The purpose of qualitative research is to help understand and decipher social interactions. The primary purposes of quantitative research are to create and test hypotheses. Qualitative research may focus on words, images or objects, while quantitative studies involve numbers and statistics. Thanks a lot...

    Online Focus Group

    1. Thanks for your reply.We live in a world which could be understood in different ways.Most often,one assumption is that the world exist in the way human beings gives meaning to our surrounding,therefore,its far better to understand the social world through the words by which humans gave a meaning unless our theories cannot interpret the social world.At the same time, its far better to investigate the world through the prism of a theory because the world is what we theorise how it is ...