Two Major Ways in Which Qualitative Research Differs From Quantitative Research

Generally there are two types of research that one can use to conduct study and these are qualitative and quantitative. The choice of a particular study depends on the goals and objectives for which the study is conducted, (Polit & Beck, 2010). In qualitative research study, special interest is placed on use of the sensory methods like observation and listening in gathering of data. Qualitative research has found a great deal of application in nursing, especially in evidence-based research and is increasingly being accepted in medicine. On the other hand, quantitative research is an investigation that relies on numbers to explain phenomena.

There are major differences that exist between these two forms of research and this touch most on the flexibility of the two methods. The two major differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods occur in their methodologies. While qualitative research seeks to study perspectives in individuals or phenomena, quantitative research on the other hand seeks to prove a hypothesis.

            Tools in Qualitative and Quantitative Research

            Qualitative researcher uses a more structured approach in collecting its data. The major difference between qualitative research and quantitative is that in quantitative research, the researcher employs structured questionnaires, surveys and observation. The questionnaires are often detailed and these are then presented to the participants in the field. However, in qualitative research, the questionnaires are semi-structured in nature and include some questions that guide the respondents.

The structured questionnaires in quantitative research provide data, which is then expressed in numbers for analysis. Since numbers in quantitative research are often numeric in nature, it provides a way in which statistical tests can be applied to test such data, a feat that is absent in qualitative research. Statistical tests used in quantitative research include mean, median, variance and deviations. These descriptive statistics are very useful in determining differences between groups and preference trends among other statistical facts.

However, in qualitative research, participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups are often commonly used. Data obtained from qualitative research are often used to describe characteristics or qualities of phenomena. Although encoding provides a way in which the data can be reduced into numbers in qualitative research, this is often not employed. Questionnaires in qualitative research are semi-structured in nature and are mainly used to get qualitative measurements and as such no measurements are done like in quantitative research. Moreover, there are no statistics used in qualitative research, unlike in quantitative research, instead descriptive words are used to explore phenomena.


Sampling techniques provides another major difference between quantitative and qualitative research methods. In quantitative research, large samples are used. Often, the study population in quantitative research is large and this is divided into smaller samples using random sampling. In order to get unbiased and reliable findings the samples are given equal chance of occurrence and various strategies of random sampling which include stratified, systematic, cluster and stratified are used. Sampling procedure involves dividing study population into groups and the samples are then selected randomly from the population. The use of larger samples in quantitative research provides a better way of making generalizations using the statistical tests.

However, the focus of qualitative research is on smaller samples of the population. This often takes a form of focus groups, and the main sampling strategies common are snowball, quota and purposive sampling. The main interest in qualitative research is to explore and to explain phenomena. This study design is often concerned more on the process than the outcomes, which is not the case in quantitative research.

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