In the explanation of phenomena, two methods of research have been devised. These are qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Qualitative research makes use of methods that seeking to know the quality rather than quantity of the subject matter. It is more often than not concerned with giving an explanation on the how and why of a particular phenomenon instead of where, when and what. It has often been used in fields like humanities, sociology and anthropology. Due to its being exploratory and concentrating on explaining “why” rather than “what” it has drawn criticism as being overly subjective.
Quantitative research on its part involves measurement and coming up with numerical data pertaining to a particular phenomenon. It uses traditional mathematical and statistical methods in order to conclusively measure the results. The construction of this research enables other individuals to repeat a particular experiment and obtain the same results since all its experiments are done in a single structured format.
What are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research?
Qualitative and quantitative researches are fundamentally different in a number of ways right from their aim to the way in which they care carried out.
Aim or goal of research- qualitative research aims at providing a detailed and comprehensive description of a particular research topic. On the other hand, quantitative research focuses more on classifying and counting features as well as constructing statistical figures and models in order to explain the observations.
In qualitative research, the researcher is the key data gathering tool, in which case he or she would use various strategies of gathering data subject to the approach or thrust of the research. The methods used in this research include non-structured and structured interviews, narratives, documentary and content analysis, archival research, participant observation, focus groups and in-depth interviews. This is different from quantitative research which uses instruments such as surveys, questionnaires and other tools to collect measurable and numerical data.
Uses- in the initial phases of the research projects, qualitative research would be the most ideal while quantitative research is recommended in the latter phases of the project. Quantitative research gives the researcher more understanding as to the expectations in the research unlike qualitative research.
Data generated- in qualitative research, the data generated is in form of images (videos), objects (like artifacts) and words (from the interviews conducted). For anyone conducting quantitative research, you would be most likely to have the data presented as graphs. This is unlike quantitative where you would have the data presented in form of tables containing statistics and numbers.
Qualitative and quantitative methods are also different in their approaches- the approach of qualitative is more or less subjective since it aims at having clear understanding of human behavior as well as explaining the reasons governing the behavior. In this case, the researcher would be likely to be immersed subjectively in subject matter when conducting qualitative research. Quantitative research on its part induces objectivity in the researcher where he would be separated objectively from that particular subject matter. Quantitative research incorporates an objective approach to the phenomena since it only aims at getting precise analysis and measurements of the target concepts in order to answer that particular enquiry.
What are the advantages of quantitative research?
Quantitative research comes with a number of benefits which include:-
It allows for summarization of large information- given that quantitative research makes use of standard formats, the research can be analyzed, replicated as well as compared with similar studies. Actually, this method allows people to easily summarize large information sources and enhance good comparison across categories and over time.
Quantitative research also eliminates subjectivity- this is one of the reasons why many researchers choose quantitative research. It completely eliminates bias by encouraging the researches to be away from the subjects participating in the research. To eliminate bias further, researchers are advised to employ subjects that are not familiar to them. This research often filters all the external factors promising real and unbiased results if it is well designed.
More accuracy- Quantitative research is known to provide more objective and accurate results. Generally, the aim of quantitative is to provide summaries of the information supporting generalizations pertaining to the phenomenon being studies or the subject matter. In order to achieve this objective successfully, quantitative research incorporates less variables. In addition, it makes use of prescribed methods in order to ensure validity as well as reliability.
Finalization of the finding- the aim of any study is to allow for the making of a conclusion pertaining to the subject matter. Quantitative research is ideal for drawing conclusions or finalizing results as well as proving or disproving hypothesis. It has been useful in testing results obtained from carrying out different qualitative experiments thus giving a final or conclusive answer. This method also offers an opportunity for narrowing down on the possible directions just in case more research would need to be conducted.
Quantitative research allows the researcher to construct situations which would eliminate the puzzling influence from numerous variables thereby allowing an individual to establish the cause and effect relationships more credibly.
Given the approach used in quantitative research, the research would be quick while providing quantitative, precise and numerical data. In addition, this would save on the time more so since the researcher may use statistical software in generating a presentation of the findings.
Limitations of quantitative research
While quantitative research comes with numerous advantages, it is also limited in some aspects.
Its key limitation is that the research would completely ignore the context of that experiment or study. Unlike qualitative research, Quantitative research would not study things in their natural settings or even consider the meaning of particular things to different people.
As much as the results produced by the Quantitative research would be more accurate, this is always subject to the size of the population or sample studied. Accurate results would be obtained as larger populations are studied in which case larger populations would need to be studied to give accurate results.
Researchers would also be likely to miss out on particular phenomenon taking place since they focus mainly on hypothesis testing and theory rather than generation of theories and hypothesis. This is called confirmation bias.
As stated, quantitative research would allow for generalization of the data since the same format is used. However, the knowledge or information thus generated is likely to be too general and abstract to be applied directly to particular local situations, individuals and concepts. This renders the information generated immaterial.
Advantages of qualitative research
A complete opposite of the quantitative research, qualitative research comes with a number of advantages.
To begin with, it pays significant attention to the particular action that it wishes to have. In this case, there would be efforts to make sure that the difference between practice and theory has been minimized or completely eliminated. This allows for interaction between theory and what is practiced.
Qualitative research also aims at building a theory from the scratch as experienced by the practitioners. In this case, the researcher would be having a one on one interaction level with the subject matter in which case the findings are bound to be more real and accurate.
Having in mind that qualitative research does not allow the researcher to incorporate detached objectivity, his results would be likely to be more material or relevant to the particular situation or subject matter. The researcher is allowed to engage the practitioners in his research with the report of findings being familiar and relatable to the subject under investigation. Eventually, this engagement would give the subject or participants a stake in the study as well aiding at understanding more the research. This would form a basis for the right action as well as measures to effect change.
While critics of qualitative research has seen it as more subjective, the reader is always allowed to judge the position and biases of that particular researcher without compromising the researcher’s ability to explore his interpretations of information or data collected rigorously.
Researchers are also allowed to use the key qualitative method to generate tentative as well as explanatory theories on phenomenon. The researcher would also be able to study the dynamic processes, that is, the documentation of sequential changes and patterns.
Qualitative researchers have been known to be responsive to particular changes occurring in the course of the study more so in extended fieldwork in which case, they can always shift the study’s focus in order to capture the real information.
Having in mind that the qualitative research would be carried out in a natural setting, the researcher would always be able to gauge the interpretation of constructs by the participant. These are issues such as IQ and self esteem in which case the findings can always be customized to accommodate these differences.
Limitations of qualitative research
The knowledge produced in qualitative research may not be generalized to other subjects since they may be uniquely relating to few people on whom the research concentrated.
Qualitative research cannot be used in testing theories and hypothesis with big participant pools.
Generally, data collection in qualitative research would be time consuming leave alone data analysis
It is always difficult to gauge the accuracy of the data provided since the subjectivity is not totally eliminated. In this case, the knowledge would be influenced by personal idiosyncrasies and biases of the researcher.
There has always been debate as to which of the two methods is better. However, it would be difficult to give blanket appropriateness due to the fact that each comes with its own pros and cons which varies with the topic under discussion.
As to the appropriateness of any method, it is always subject to the goal of a particular study. In this case, for studies aiming at using numerical evidence to answer an inquiry, quantitative research would be the most ideal. For studies aiming at explaining the ‘why” of a particular event, qualitative research would be more appropriate. In some cases, both are used thereby complementing each other.
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