Understanding Qualitative-vs-Quantitative Data and Research


Research, be it academic or scientific, is a useful way of getting important information about different phenomena. Generally, researchers use different methods and approaches to get the desired information, depending on the researcher’s field of interest. As far as academic research is concerned, two research methodologies are commonly used. These methodologies are quantitative and qualitative. Although these are the most commonly used methods of research, students still get confused about the difference between these two. Therefore, this qualitative-vs-quantitative guide will help them get a clear idea about each methodology. So, if you want to find out how quantitative data is different from qualitative data, and how qualitative research differs from quantitative research, this article is for you.

Qualitative-vs-Quantitative Data

Research data is usually categorized into two broad categories:

  1. Quantitative Data
  2. Qualitative Data

Let’s see how these two types of data differ from each other.

  • Quantitative Data

Quantitative data is data that is in numeric form and can be counted. It is used while quantifying a problem and answer the what or how much/many aspects of a research question. Moreover, it is the result of measuring or counting the attributes of a population. We can count this type of data on a numeric scale.

Quantitative data will always be available in the form of numbers, such as:

  • Number of people
  • Number of students
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Amount of money

In most cases, researchers collect quantitative data with the help of different instruments, like questionnaires having rating scales. Moreover, they analyze this data using statistical analysis tools and software, like SPSS.

Quantitative Data Collection Methods

Following are some common quantitative data collection methods:

  • Surveys – use multiple choice questions or closed-ended questions
  • Experiments – cause and effect relationships are established by controlling and manipulating variables
  • Observations – subjects are observed without controlling the variables
  • Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is the data that is in a narrative form instead of numeric form and describes characteristics or qualities. It is the result of describing and categorizing the attributes of a population. Generally, it answers the why aspect of a research question.

Qualitative data will always be available in the form of letters and words, such as:

  • Ethnic group
  • Hair color
  • Blood type
  • The street someone lives on
  • The car someone drives

In most cases, researchers collect qualitative data with the help of observation, interviews, as well as questionnaires. Compared to quantitative data, qualitative data is difficult to measure and analyze because it is in descriptive form. So, in order to analyze it as precisely as possible, researchers take help from coding. Coding helps them examine patterns or meaning in the data by categorizing it into recurrent themes corresponding with the research questions.

Qualitative Data Collection Methods

Following are some common qualitative data collection methods:

  • Interviews – respondents are asked open-ended questions verbally
  • Focus Groups – a group of people discusses a topic to gather opinions
  • Ethnography – the culture and behavior of a particular community is observed for an extended period
  • Literature Review – published works of authors are reviewed

Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

In terms of data collection and analysis, we can use both quantitative and qualitative types of research. They offer useful insight and help gain related information about a particular topic. As far as qualitative-vs-quantitative research is concerned, there are some distinct differences between the two. So, let’s see how these research methodologies differ from each other.

  • Quantitative Research

In the simplest words, quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics when collecting as well as analyzing data.

This type of research uses graphs, frequencies, as well as numbers to display results. Moreover, it is ideal for testing or confirming assumptions and theories. After analysis, quantitative research can help establish generalizable facts about a particular problem.

Researchers can carry out quantitative research with the help of one of the following methods:

  • Experiments
  • Observations recorded as numbers
  • Surveys with closed-ended questions
  • Qualitative Research

In the simplest words, qualitative research deals with words as well as their meaning when collecting and analyzing data.

This type of research uses words to express results. Moreover, it is ideal for understanding different thoughts, concepts, and experiences. After analysis, qualitative analysis can provide in-depth information about the problem that was previously not well understood.

Researchers carry out qualitative research with the help of one of the following methods:

  • Interviews with open-ended questions
  • Observations described in words
  • Literature reviews exploring theories and concepts

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Some common differences between both quantitative and qualitative research methods are explained in tabular form below:

Quantitative Research Qualitative Research
Tests theories, concepts, and hypotheses Explores ideas to formulate a single theory or hypothesis
Analyzes data using numbers and statistics Analyzes data by categorizing, summarizing, and interpreting
Results mentioned in the form of graphs, numbers, tables, etc. Results expressed in the form of words
Needs a lot of respondents Needs a few or no respondents
Closed-ended questions like MCQs Open-ended questions

Due to its nature, most researchers prefer quantitative research over qualitative one. It is because they can analyze quantitative data easily through statistical software to get more objective results.

Qualitative and Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative as well as qualitative data cannot give results on their own. Researchers have to analyze the data in order to demonstrate underlying patterns and results. However, both these methods use different ways of analysis.

Analyzing Quantitative Data

Since quantitative data is numeric and based on numbers, researchers can analyze it using mathematics and statistical analysis. As a result, researchers can discover common patterns in the data and report them in tables and graphs.

Some common tools used in the quantitative analysis are as follows:

  • Excel
  • SPSS
  • R

These tools can help calculate average scores, frequency of a particular answer, the correlation between 2 or more variables, reliability of the results, etc.

Analyzing Qualitative Data

Compared to quantitative data, qualitative data analysis is difficult because it is not numeric and uses text, images, and ideas.

Generally, researchers analyze qualitative data using one of the following methods:

  • Content Analysis
  • Thematic Analysis
  • Discourse Analysis

In a Nutshell

This article gives a brief account of qualitative-vs-quantitative data and research. It can help students as well as researchers understand the process of data collection and analysis. So, if you want to carry out quantitative or qualitative research, the above article should be the right way forward.

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